EA’s deliberate policy not to dredge

In reply to Cllr Susan Murray’s letter (February 14) I agree entirely that we must look again at developments on the flood plains, plant more trees upstream to slow run off and do more to defend vital transport links.

However, the Somerset levels were left undredged, not because of lack of funds, but as a deliberate policy by the Environment Agency.

The environment is a competency of the EU and the EA works to EU directives. These have included the EU’s Natura 2000 strategy along with a sheaf of directives on “habitats”, “birds”, “water”, and not least the “floods” directive of 2007, which specifically requires certain “floodplains” to be allowed to flood. In 2008, when the EA was run by Baroness Young, this was reflected in a policy document which classified areas at risk of flooding under six categories, ranging from those in “Policy Option 1”, where flood defences were a priority, down to “Policy 6’’ where, to promote “biodiversity”, the strategy should be to “increase flooding”. The Somerset Levels are covered by Policy 6.

It was in that year that Baroness Young explained in an interview that creating wildlife habitats could be very expensive, but that by far the cheapest way was simply to allow natural flooding. As she gaily put it: “Just add water”. Around this time she was heard to say of the Somerset Levels, that she would like to see “a limpet mine attached to every pumping station”.

The local dredging boards pleaded with the EA to dredge, but were refused. The EA even sold off the dredging equipment. The Fens fought tooth and nail to avoid coming under the EA’s remit and the flooding there has been much less. The EA has a budget of £1.2b. Of that, over £500m goes on salaries and pensions. The budget for publicity is more than that for dredging.

The present Chairman of the EA, Lord Smith, earns over £90,000 a year, for a three day week. But, just when you thought that in the current conditions, his present workload couldn’t be any higher, he’s off to the Advertising Standards Authority, where the former Labour Culture Secretary is paid £133,000 a year for two days work a week. He is also a director of PPL, which collects royalties on behalf of musicians and holds monthly board meetings and works for Donmar Warehouse and the Wordsworth Trust. Nice work, if you can get it!

Peter Griffiths

UKIP Parliamentary 
Candidate for Wealden