Farmers Angry As Climate Change Committee Questions Flood Defenses
Climate change experts have angered farmers after questioning whether it was fair to spend £100 million of taxpayers’ money to save the Somerset Levels.
Climate expert Lord Krebs has sent a letter to Environment Minister Owen Paterson saying the Levels should not be made a special case and any plan should be good value for money.
Earlier this week the Owen Paterson received an action plan outlining £100 million worth of measures that need to be taken to safeguard the area from future flooding.
The Government has pledged £20 million towards dredging and the clean-up operation, but it is still unclear where the money for major capital projects such as the £30 million barrage on the Parrett will come from.
The Committee on Climate Change warns Mr Paterson that defending the Levels will become “ever more difficult” as sea levels rise by 12cm by 2030 and intense rainfall events become even more common.
Lord Krebs, chairman of the adaptation sub-committee, tells the Minister that the Levels is “a largely engineered wetland landscape” and any public funding should face strict face tests to ensure “value for money is being achieved”.
“Funding from central Government for flood risk management is limited, and as a result many worthwhile projects have to held back each year,” he said.
“Whilst the immediate needs of the affected communities will be a priority, it would be unfair in the long-term for the Levels to attract more taxpayer support than similar areas elsewhere.
“The long-term approach needs to be sustainable and cost-effective. It shouldn’t require taxpayer funding to be diverted from other projects that would deliver greater flood risk benefit.”
A report from the committee points out that 900 new houses have been built in Sedgemoor in the ten years to 2011 and says farmers have also contributed to the problems by planting fields with maize.
But farmers say it’s easy for Lord Krebs to make judgments from his office in the Horse of Lords or Oxford University, and he should visit the Somerset Levels and see the devastation for himself.
A spokesman for the National Farmers’ Union said: “Yes, we do need have to have a debate about climate change in the longer term, but now is not the time to have it.
“At the moment what we are trying to do is dig people out from a terrible mess caused by 20 years of inaction from governments of both stripes. A mess that was not of their making.