EA chief and minister hear farmers’ flood concerns

Environment and climate
Tom Bradshaw and Robbie Moore on the river bank

Photograph: NFU President Tom Bradshaw and Minister for Water Robbie Moore

The chair of the Environment Agency and the Minister for Water met with NFU officeholders and members to discuss the impact of devastating flooding during a visit to south Lincolnshire.

NFU President Tom Bradshaw and NFU Vice President Rachel Hallos joined EA chair Alan Lovell, Minister for Water and Rural Growth Robbie Moore, and NFU members on a specially convened behind-the-scenes tour of Boston’s flood defences.

It follows Mr Lovell’s appearance at NFU Conference last month where he offered to visit the site to discuss farmers’ concerns about Boston’s ability to deal with major flooding in the wake of storms Babet and Henk.

Vast swathes of fenland have been inundated and farming businesses devastated by flood water in the area.

‘Putting food production at risk’

The group was shown the £100 million Boston Barrier – the Lincolnshire town’s primary tidal floodgate, the decommissioned Black Sluice Pumping Station, Boston Grand Sluice and Hobhole Pumping Station in nearby Fishtoft by senior Environment Agency staff and local internal drainage boards.

Tom said: “It has been fantastic to have Robbie Moore and Alan Lovell in Boston to discuss the impact of flooding on farmers and the solutions to this issue.

“We know from the open letter on flooding that over a thousand NFU members were victims of flooding from storm Babet, but in reality the total number affected by the incredibly wet winter is far higher than that, and the impacts have been clear for all to see – it’s really putting food production at risk.

The impacts have been clear for all to see – it’s really putting food production at risk.”

NFU President Tom Bradshaw

“We need government to decide how they can prioritise spending to make sure we minimise the impact of future weather events and maximise the ability to produce food on the best farmland in the country.”

Responsible ways to deal with water


During the visit, the touring group were shown plans for a £80m revamp of the crucial Hobhole Pumping Station in the Witham Fourth IDB district – a vital asset protecting high quality agricultural land from flooding.

Mr Lovell and the EA team then went on to see NFU member Henry Ward’s farm at Shortferry which has been hit hard by flooding in recent years.

Following the event, NFU Vice President Rachel Hallos said: “Storing and moving water, and keeping it where it needs to be, is far from straightforward.

“From the hills where I farm in the Pennines to the Fens of south Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire, we need to start looking at responsible ways of dealing with water.

“The government needs to recognise that when it comes to flood prevention, food is important as well as protecting homes.”

NFU Holland (Lincs) county chair, Simon Gadd, who farms just outside Boston, said: “We are delighted to have welcomed the chair of the EA and the minister, along with Tom and Rachel, to Boston to see for themselves the issues we have with water management here.

“We had really helpful discussions with the EA, IDBs, Mr Lovell and Mr Moore. They have a clear picture now of the challenges we face here and what needs to be done.

“We need long term solutions for the protection of agricultural land and food production in the area, without which farming businesses are at risk of becoming unviable.”

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