farmers in the Burnham-On-Sea area quiz DEFRA minister
than 150 farmers, landowners, tenants and smallholders packed
a barn near Wedmore to question Richard Benyon, Flooding Minister
from the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
MP, Tessa Munt, organised the event and was keen that the Flooding
Minister should see the River Axe and Brue valleys so he could
view the damage caused to land and businesses by flooding for
a tour of the area, Mr Benyon met local farmers who aired their
concerns about the hardships they face after an extraordinarily
wet 2012. They also made a number of suggestions and put forward
solutions to improve the situation.
blamed more than a dozen years of neglect, pointing out that no
dredging of the rivers or rhynes had been included in the regular
maintenance programme, which would at least have allowed the watercourses
across the Somerset Levels to work as they were designed to do
two hundred years ago. As a consequence, much of the wildlife
and habitats for which the Levels and Moors are reknowned was
lost, as floodwater sat on the land for many weeks and months.
told Burnham-On-Sea.com: "This visit will have left Richard
Benyon in no doubt as to what is needed to improve the farmers
chances of making a living from the land. He appreciates changes
are necessary, and has taken back to London a clear message for
Defra from the farmers of Somerset."
must look at ways of increasing the influence of local people
in decisions which affect the rivers and rhynes, and ensure those
who have knowledge - sometimes going back through the generations
- of the best way to drain and manage our precious and unique
low-lying farmland. Part of the short-term solution should be
the reinstatement of dredging, so the floodwater does not lie
on the land for weeks on end during the summer, causing so much
long-term solution for which I am campaigning is an extra statutory
priority for the Environment Agency, which currently has responsibility
for the Axe and Brue Rivers, to recognise and value productive
land. Without this I can see the situation occurring again as
the climate becomes ever more unpredictable."