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Flood prevention

I recently chanced upon the website of the Flood Prevention Society, a voluntary organisation that tries to shape public policy on flooding. Their website has a long and detailed report on some of the floods in recent years and, for those with less time on their hands, a snappy "Urban myths about flooding" page. They seem less than impressed with the Environment Agency, and indeed with George Monbiot's ideas about grouse moors and flooding. I reproduce the whole thing here.

1. “Increased flooding is because of more land drainage”.

The opposite is true.  During the last Great War and for years after to produce more food and later help the balance of payments, farmers were given a 50% capital grant by Governments to clean ditches, brooks and land drainage.  This grant ceased over 30 years ago – so while flooding is on the increase, land drainage is on the decrease.

2. “Modern farming with heavy tractors and machinery causes a plough pan seal (compaction) in the land preventing it soaking up rain, so the rain runs straight into rivers”.

Modern farmers also use subsoilers that break up any plough pan letting air and moisture penetrate up and down – so no change.

3. “Rainfall running off moorland causes urban flooding”.

If it did, as the annual rainfall has not increased, so why are thousands more homes and businesses getting flooded.  Moorland has natural boggy areas where the water table can be kept low by drainage channels maintained in good condition.  Now with Natural England imposing SSSI control on many moors they have closed the drainage channels, so the water table has lifted leaving no sponge rainwater absorbing affect, therefore the rain now runs off the moors far more quickly.  We have the wisdom of ‘hands on experience’ on this subject.

4. “Non porous paving on forecourts, house drives and paths causes rainwater to fill the rivers more quickly”.

Compared to current EA policy of not dredging rivers, the affect of non porous surfaces is negligible – if it has any affect at all, it would be equivalent to shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic.

5. “Some salmon and trout ‘experts’ say “leave rivers undredged – it is better for the fish”.

This totally incorrect view is confounded in figures published by the EA in the 2009 salmon count which said that the count was the lowest on record.  So while rivers are left neglected for 15 years fish are on the decline, likewise water voles are now only found in 6% of their former range say the EA.

6. Another comment by the EA is “If we dredged there is nowhere to put the spoil dredged out”.

The river boards, before EA control, managed to do it  – it is very fertile material, most farms have hollows in fields and farmers would be glad of it.  It is also good to build up river banks, but it cannot be done by sitting in an office playing with computers creating more flood plains. The Manchester Ship Canal was built in 13 months for Ocean going ships with a minimum water depth of 28’ and bottom width of 120’.  The spoil dug out was moved with wheelbarrows and horses and carts – where there is a will there is a way.  It was built by private enterprise.

7. Another comment by the EA “We can’t use the spoil dredged out to top up river banks because it is porous”.

We know of river banks built up over 100 years ago by dredged silt with a sandy nature and they have been perfect.  A Dutch dredger came up the River Dee 50 years ago depositing the silt by building up its banks.  These banks still contain the highest tides of the year despite the river bed now badly being silted up.  

8. “Floods caused by farmers not cleaning silt and debris out of ditches”.

It is correct that roadside drains discharge into farm ditches.  Most farmers know the importance of ditch dredging but many are frustrated by the fact that where they discharge into a tributary designated main river – under the control of the EA – whose policy of not dredging has caused the silt to build up higher than the discharge points of the farm ditches and land drains.

The worst case of road flooding in our area at times of high rainfall is caused by the EA not dredging a main river tributary.  The rain water runs backwards up a farm ditch, runs backwards out of the road drainage grid – floods the road – and then often freezes leaving a sheet of ice on a T junction where cars spin off the road.

9. “Should local councils advise the EA of the need to dredge main rivers in their area”.

They often do, but they get the reply back by word or letter saying that there is no benefit in dredging.

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Reader Comments (84)


Jan 4, 2016 at 9:09 PM | Unregistered Commenterbilbaoboy

Because I live in a flood-prone area (with a river in my back garden) I have been known to rail at the EA about why it is they keep pushing the idea of 'flood defences' all the time instead of getting stuck into 'flood prevention'. I'm pleased to see someone else seems to share that opinion.

Jan 4, 2016 at 9:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

“The BBC is another part of the destruction of Great Britain" is a well known Norman Tebbit quote.

The Environment Agency should be added to the list.

Jan 4, 2016 at 9:36 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

As far as I can see the UK in general suffers from civil servants gold plating any directive from the EU, even if it detrimental to the country, whereas the other EU countries pick those directives apart and discard the bits they disagree with.

Here in my part of France, the department, in association with the local councils keep all the roadside ditches and storm drains clear to the rivers that are also clear to the sea. Our local river has a dam at the edge of the village area, the purpose of which is two fold, first to control the spring snow melt water and second to provide a pickup lake for the fire-fighting aircraft during the summer. During autumn each year the lake behind the dam is allowed to drain and the area is cleaned out with the broken trees being stacked on the shore for the local people to take and the gravel and sand that is dug out being sold for building work.

In the 20 odd years I have been here there has been only one flood in the adjoining department, and that was a small one caused by river bank collapse due to work being carried out at a new bridge site.

If it can be done in France why not the UK, or are water voles more important than people?

Jan 4, 2016 at 9:37 PM | Unregistered Commenterivan

Maybe the 'authorities' know that the measures they pursue (no dredging, etc) will lead to worse flooding - and then they can invoke climate change. Convenient.

Jan 4, 2016 at 9:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterIan G

The sad reality of Cumbria.
The place is full of hags.

Agriculture should be stopped above 400meters ~
This should be balanced by a slight increase in agricultural intensity in western sea level districts where spate rivers typically dive into the sea without fanning out.

Western coast sea level farming has been pretty much abandoned.
The productivity at sea level per acre is of course many times higher then high-level ranch farming.

Jan 4, 2016 at 9:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

[snip O/T -this post is about flood management]

Jan 4, 2016 at 10:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

The sad irony is that more water voles (and badgers and foxes and rabbits and shrews and earthworms and devil’s coachmen, etc., etc.) are drowned in a flood than are displaced by flood prevention.

Jan 4, 2016 at 10:14 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Very nice post.
BTW, in my parts (Wisconsin Uplands) the 'farm subsoilers' are called chisel plows. Reach over 2 feet down. We use them in conjunction with multiyear 'no til', which really is a misnomer meaning no traditional mouldboard plowing, chiseling precisely to improve soil aeration and water absorption prior to 'no til' seed drilling.
Of course, this works best with GMO 'roundup ready' crops since glyphosate is essential for weed suppression. The main reason for overturning mouldboard plows was and remains initial weed control, burying last years weed seeds below their shallow germination depth limit. But then you not only have more field passes (3 : plow, deep harrow, furrow plant, versus 2: chisel, seed drill) and larger erosion problems, you disturb the stratified soil ecology, particularly the symbiotic microbial biome. Easier and cheaper to just get weeds but not crops using blanket sprayed 'chem warfare'. And maybe only plough/harrow every second or third year depending on crop rotation and weed status. On my dairy farm, each contour is on a 2/3 rotation corn or soy followed by alfalfa ( which in the first of 3 years when it cannot be cut is planted with a (usually) oats or barley cover crop for supplemental feed. We plow when rotating to corn or soy, chisel/ drill the second year using flyphoste weed control both years, then depending on the contour and soil/ weed conditions either plow or chisel to plant the alfalpha/cover. Which then is only harvested for the next 3 years using lower horsepower, lighter tractors and equipment to prevent undue soil compaction.

Jan 4, 2016 at 10:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterRud Istvan

The Environment Agency, like many Government funded organisations, is run by those who put the Ministry of Green Blob's Agenda at the top of their priority list.

I do not know what changes have been made following the Somerset Levels flooding 2 years ago, but I would guess (?) that Landowners and Local Residents have been driving the 'Management' of the system of drains that has been functioning adequately for hundreds of years.

It is high time that the Environment Agency actually listened to people who actually know what they are talking about. The Flood Prevention Society do seem to know what they are talking about, and I look forward to the UK Government asking them to 'advise' the EA, and the EA being instructed to listen and act accordingly.

I am not into fishing, but every programme (BBC and Attenborough included) about Salmon and Trout, does seem to include them spawning in clear water, and release eggs into gravel, not sludge and silt. The rivers of Scotland are famous for Salmon, they have gravel bedded headwaters. The famous Trout rivers of Southern England are predominantly in chalk, again clear gravelly head waters.

Perhaps the BBC could redeem itself, by drawing attention to some of their archives.

Jan 4, 2016 at 10:25 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

"The long acre " often the most productive part of boggy west of Ireland farms is no longer grazed.
Partially because of the car overpopulation problem.

Agricultural sense has been turned on its head since the EEC especially .
You cannot beat small compact peasant farms for productivity per acre.

Jan 4, 2016 at 10:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

[snip O/T]

Jan 4, 2016 at 10:58 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Very interesting, I don't agree with the attempt to link the lack of salmon and sea trout to dredging however. The reasons for the decline are more to be found in fish farms and salmon taken at sea by trawlers.

Jan 4, 2016 at 11:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterWangler

Those saying The EA might change do not know of what they speak.

The disappearance of the insidetheenvironmentagency blog and Twitter feed was one of the disappointments of 2015 - although likely much relief at Horizon House.

Does anybody know 'owt about what happened? Wuz they knobbled ?

Jan 4, 2016 at 11:05 PM | Registered Commentertomo

I think it is more than fair to say that there is no limit to Monbats ignorance on the limitations of his actually knowledge , for instance he claims there are no rules in hunting and that hunters can do do shoot anything. In fact it's rule bound and there are lots of codes and traditions that sit on top of these, so far from the free for all he claims. Similarly his knowledge on farming , especially hill farmer , seems to consist of nothing more than asking some some scale organic market garden what they think , and then never questioning anything the tell him. Well in his re-wilding idea, he is yet to tell us which part of the stone age he wants to return too, as that was the last time the environment was anything like what he thinks is ideal.

In short he talks much about that which he knows little off , a typical green really.

Jan 4, 2016 at 11:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterKNR

Time for civil disobedience in dredging rivers

Jan 4, 2016 at 11:21 PM | Unregistered Commenterdavid chorley

Here in my village of Kinvara Co. Galway we have gone for defying the EU and dredged
an outlet to the sea thus draining floods that have ruined people's houses and blocked many rural roads.
The local situation has now greatly improved. The EU Environment Commission should be disbanded - it does nothing
useful and is staffed by failed politicians and left liberal urban bureaucrats who know nothing about how people live
In rural areas which they just see as tourist destinations

Jan 4, 2016 at 11:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterGlebekinvara


Too right, offshore catching of native salmon/sea trout by non-British trawlers, and disease infection of native stocks from farmed fish has decimated the wild populations. And before the dork kicks off; the Irish Republic was 100% behind it, and made billions out of it.

Jan 4, 2016 at 11:48 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

O, please, please tell me these guys are EU funded?

Or if not EU, then at least EA and DECC funded?

An organistion providing environmental beneficial flood prevention expertise surely has to be a major recipient?

Jan 5, 2016 at 12:00 AM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

I don't know where the figure of 13 months for the building of the Manchester Ship Canal came from.
Even with modern earth moving machinery you would be hard pressed to do it in that time.
According to this website it took all of six years.

Jan 5, 2016 at 1:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterOld Grumpy

"Engage, engage in debate."

Debate involves a degree of coherence. You have none.

Jan 5, 2016 at 7:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterMInk of pink

Salopian and Dork: O/T topics and personal arguments between you have been removed. Please take further spats between you to Discussion if you wish to continue.

Jan 5, 2016 at 8:29 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

I'd agree with most of the article but suggest that the demise of the water vole is more due to the depredations of feral mink than anything.
Metal campshedding along the canals hasn't helped though where they were known to exist efforts were usually made to provide access for the little fellows!

There is a three-year rolling programme of ditch clearing round here and I'm expecting work on the stretch south of us to start any day. Funny how the French can do the common sense things and the Brits no longer can.

Jan 5, 2016 at 9:01 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

4. “Non porous paving on forecourts, house drives and paths causes rainwater to fill the rivers more quickly”.

Compared to current EA policy of not dredging rivers, the affect of non porous surfaces is negligible – if it has any affect at all, it would be equivalent to shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Bad spelling aside, this is very improbable. Where's the reference?

Certainly the lack of ability of urban areas to absorb water must mean that villages spread floods rapidly through the villages.

And those are the bits that really matter.

Jan 5, 2016 at 9:01 AM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

They missed one:

10 "Farmers always put their gates in the muddiest part of the field".

Jan 5, 2016 at 9:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

@M Courtney

Further to some of my wibbling on the matter - the lack of measurement bedevils this entire subject. In the "Internet of Things" it is entirely doable to have much denser distributed measurement of water levels and flows for not a lot of money.

This has been resisted by the EA who - afaik have their own quite large fleet of rain gauges that aren't exposed publicly at all and heaven forbid - integrate them with more river level stations and rainfall radar. This has been done in the USA on a trial basis with as I understand it results that are worthwhile and increasingly accurate at the model is trained / validated....

Opinion - even if coming from an experienced observer is not really a good substitute for measurement .... certainly not in a field inundated with opinion like Moonbat et al are wont to spout.

Just one well instrumented catchment area would be useful ......

Jan 5, 2016 at 9:23 AM | Registered Commentertomo

Dork of Cork - Cumbria is not full of peat hags and your photo is of the Peak District.

Jan 5, 2016 at 9:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Johnson

A lack of dredging to keep channels flowing, poor catchment management, are responsible for most flooding that occurs. The hard surfaces argument is a bit of a red herring & an attempt to deflect attention away from EU policieswhich ae largely responsible. Can it be a contributing factor? Yes, but it is not the primary reason! The one thing a large overly bureaucratic organisation must do is never to readily accept responibility for some something it is responsible for, especialy when something goes wrong!

Jan 5, 2016 at 9:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

The rain water runs backwards up a farm ditch, runs backwards out of the road drainage grid – floods the road – and then often freezes leaving a sheet of ice on a T junction where cars spin off the road.

Would it be possible for anyone who has an accident on such a sheet of ice to sue the Environment Agency?

Jan 5, 2016 at 10:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

@ tomo

Some of the pages from the InsidetheEnvironmentAgency blog have been archived by the Wayback Machine, but, as you wrote, there is nothing since last summer.*/

I wonder if the Environment Agency managed to identify the person or persons behind the blog and were able to "persuade" him/her/them to discontinue the blog?

Jan 5, 2016 at 10:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Jan 5, 2016 at 9:01 AM | Registered Commenter M Courtney

"this is very improbable. Where's the reference?"

Ever flown in a light aircraft? If not, use Google Earth at 2,000 ft above ground level. (that is how the maps are made).

People have long complained about "concreting over the land", but an hours flight at 2,000 feet will show you the mistake. At ground level 'it looks' as if we are covering huge swathes of land, but when you actually take a look, it "is negligible".

As a private pilot, I am always amazed by just how LITTLE of the land we actually occupy, even in the cities. At 4-5,000 feet there is almost no visible sign that we exist at all, you can discern road lines and railway lines to navigate by, and with practice you can make out some airfields, but mostly what you see is green and sky reflected from lakes and reservoirs.

No references, just my experiences.

Jan 5, 2016 at 10:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterRockySpears

This is yet another example of how climate consensus is serving as the excuse for government bad policy. Climate consensus has dumbed down policy and critical thinking and has allowed incredibly stupid ideas like the idea that peasant plot farming is more efficient than modern agriculture. The pastoralist illusion becomes a dangerous delusion if actually taken seriously and imposed on a country.

Jan 5, 2016 at 11:11 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

@ RockySpears - I concur.

Jan 5, 2016 at 11:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterDave Ward

Green Sand Jan 5, 2016 at 12:00 AM

As they don't claim to be a "Registered Charity" I suggest they might actually be genuine and impartial. Almost without exception, any Green / Eco organisation or pressure group (in the UK, at least) is a "charity", and one can easily look them up at the Charities Commission website. There you will usually find details of their finances, and links to download the most recent annual reports. I haven't looked at a single one of these which didn't reveal extensive funding from government agencies or the "Third Sector's" own sources.

Jan 5, 2016 at 11:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterDave Ward

I'd suspect that any directive which allowed to save money would be welcomed without too much scrutiny. Of course this is more of the short-termist thinking that dogs almost all political decisions.

Also the 'climate experts', including the Met Office had been insisting prior to last years floods that we should be expecting drier weather with climate change. I vividly remember in the Spring/Summer of 2013 the poor fools were concerned that the winter rain would not be enough to fill the reservoirs prior to the next expected Summer drought. This message even made its way into anti-shale literature where they spoke about the UK being 'water-stressed'. So for those who took this crap seriously, flooding would not be high on the list of priorities. It's highly ironic with the latest volte face but we can always rely on the media having the attention span of a gnat.

Jan 5, 2016 at 11:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

If we focus on the Eden flooding, the catchment covers the north east of Lakeland, and the west side of the northern Pennines. It's a mix of peat hags and shallow-soil uplands. The underlying geology varies between impermeable granites to limestone (along part of the western fringe of the Pennines). The hills will have different run-off rates but prior to the EA intervention the rate of run-off for most of the catchment would have been well established. There's plenty of productive agriculture above 400 m, mainly sheep grazing of course, but in days of yore (before the fells became plagued with bracken) it was quite common to find cattle up to 600 m. Sheep graze right up to the tops at 1,000m - as they do in the west of Ireland. There's not a fortune to be made in hill farming, but things would have been a lot better if it hadn't been buggered around by the construction of reservoirs, the planting of forests, the EU and now George Monbiot (cf the mess they've left in Ennerdale).


The article in the main post is excellent. I fear it will be simply ignored. As for my local, Labour MP, he's an environmental Neanderthal/acolyte of the climate change meme/Corbynista. Lobbying has no effect. In the Welsh Assembly such matters as this are handled by Edwina Hart - need I say more?

I recall that during the first instance of this flooding event that the small pack-horse bridge at Braithwaite (Borrowdale) became blocked with trees - as the farmers had said would happen, pointing to the riverside willows planted recently by the EA. As nothing was being done about this, and loss of the bridge would have, if nothing else, cut them off from the pub, they set to to clear the bridge with their won diggers and tractors. In the midst of this they were told to stop by EA officials and the police (the latter on 'elf and safety' grounds because one farmer was hanging from a digger bucket over the flood to attach a rope to the trash). The farmers told both sets of offials to get lost. The bridge is still standing.

I believe a great deal of self preservation went on at Glenridding as well. The amount of debris removed from the river there is stunning.

Jan 5, 2016 at 11:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

Fair enough.
But look at this photo

"Swindale Beck is a river of Cumbria, England. It is formed at Swindale Head where Mosedale Beck, from the slopes of Tarn Crag, joins Hobgrumble Beck from Selside Pike. The river flows north-east along Swindale and joins the River Lowther near Rosgill between Shap and Bampton."

I have never walked in England but know degraded bogs when I see them.
The above area was at least in the past a place of intense high level farming and / or quarrying (notice the cottage).
Was not Shap and Brampton flooded ?

In the pre industrial age high level land was used for summer transhumance only.
Not fixed agriculture , typically today with stray sheep wandering all over these areas in Winter months. (Chronic lack of manpower)
The losses of sheep in modern farms is very very high as you have no boys to chase them

No part of these Islands have remained untouched.
You need to do a bit of bog trotting.

Certainly in the west of Ireland this is so.
Ancient fields ( stone walled in any cases) have their own microclimate
They require constant tending.
Not much work is required but people always remained on top of them.
Now they are typically let go for 20 or 30 years
Then subsequently capital intensive machinery is used to clear the scrub layer.
Obviously during that time no food was produced on the land.

High level sheep farming is a sort of hope for the best ranching.

Jan 5, 2016 at 11:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork


thanks - yes I've been over to archive .org previously - what I didn't do is mine the 1000++ strong Twitter follower list.... I have been contacted by several folk about the demise of that site - some of whom thought that my blog was associated with The EA absolutely knew who was running the site and had it shut down via threats to the hosting provider almost as soon as it was up - on fraudulent grounds....

There is interest and funding available to resurrect the EA site - some legals have expressed interest too....

I know the EA "were not happy" about the site - and I suspect that they threw some tens of thousands of ££££££ either at big bully lawyers or as a bribe to the site operators to make it go away (or a combo...It'd be delicious to get sight of the NDA / gagging clause.... if there is one.) . The EA PR crew threatened one site (erm... "Narrowboat World") reporting on our fracas with the EA with libel ... the editor responded with commendably direct instruction pertaining to reproduction and travel :-) not everybody knows their ground / rights :-(

Jan 5, 2016 at 11:58 AM | Registered Commentertomo

"Ancient fields ( stone walled in any cases) have their own microclimate
They require constant tending.
Not much work is required but people always remained on top of them."

Yes, apart from a few problem years between 1847 and 1852.

Of course, that was entirely caused (deliberately) by the English.

And since then it's been just fine . . .

. . . Apart from a bit of bother in 1879.

Jan 5, 2016 at 12:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

Sorry but in my opinion you are completely wrong here.
I remember the 80s and 90s in Kerry and the sheep stocking density was absurd.

This did massive damage to the tops

The below photo looks pristine but I can tell you the ridge line seen has some of the most fearsome peat hags in Kerry with a large new plastic wire fence marking the boundary.
The damage was not done by hill walkers as they rarely walk here.

Walking that ridge is like walking through a war zone in parts.
Up and down up and down up and down.........

Jan 5, 2016 at 12:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

Video of the walk , at 4.40 you see it up close but long distance shots give you a better impression of the scale of the damage.
All so as to farm the EU subsidies of the time.

Jan 5, 2016 at 12:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

At 4.40 you can see it up close but distance shots give a better impression of the damage and its scale.
All so as to farm the EU subsidies of the time.

Jan 5, 2016 at 12:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

... cut them off from the pub ...

OMG! If that is not "catastrophic" and "worse than we thought" I don't know what is!

Jan 5, 2016 at 12:55 PM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

From the quote:

Now with Natural England imposing SSSI control on many moors they have closed the drainage channels, so the water table has lifted leaving no sponge rainwater absorbing affect, therefore the rain now runs off the moors far more quickly.

IIRC this is similar to what happened in Somerset. Areas that flooded seasonally were instead kept topped up for the wildlife wetlands schemes so there was less spare capacity to accommodate heavy rainfall. A saturated sponge or brimmed reservoir is no help when it rains.

Somewhat similar to the Wivenhoe dam in South East Queensland too, albeit for reasons of drinking water resources and silly predictions of continued droughts rather than for making a nature reserve.

Jan 5, 2016 at 1:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterGareth


"No part of these Islands have remained untouched.
You need to do a bit of bog trotting."

I never said anywhere was untouched, merely that the land is not so touched by concrete as people seem to think. The covered area is easily seen as "negligible" from just a few 1,000's feet up.

As my mother is from Boyle, Co. Roscommon, I have spent many years travelling around North East Ireland, on foot, bike and car. I know what a bog is, and what they look like and how they are mere shadows of their former selves (even since my distant youth); that has nothing to do with negligible concreting-over of the land. This includes the rapacious development in Eire over the last 25 years.



Jan 5, 2016 at 1:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterRockySpears


North West Ireland,

I live in the North East UK, my mistake.


Jan 5, 2016 at 2:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterRockySpears

The EA is trawling for a new director whose job it will be to fob off local councils who ask for better flood prevention measures.

Also, one whose job will be to ensure that the EA maintain the best Green standards.

Jan 5, 2016 at 2:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

Fair point but just to give you a flavour of what has happened ......

Recent and now frequent flooding in Blackpool Cork city (a old previously working class suburb) is the result of putting a supermarket in a previously frequently flooded field.

The concrete might only cover 1% ~ of the land but is obviously concentrated near large population groups.
The problems are easier to understand in Ireland as the period of recent development has been so compressed in time and level of intensity , with two major phases of development in the 1970s and again in the 1990s /2000s.

Jan 5, 2016 at 2:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

Clip of the new legoland development built in the early 2000s on wet lowlands adjacent to a little river.
Since then flooding has become a constant danger.

As you can see its merely a zoo enclosure for ever increasing numbers of cars.
The old center of the village is a ghost town.

Jan 5, 2016 at 2:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

The UK National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) reckons that the urban landscape accounts for 10.6% of the area England (BBC June 2012, Mark Easton). I submit that such an area of built up land, probably 11% of England by now and rising, is not "negligble" even if you can't see some of it from a mile up through the atmosphere and clouds.

The important point to remember about the built environment is that the majority of rain is piped off it and directly into the rivers via the surface water drainage system (this is separate from the sewage system, though there are some connections usually by weirs). It is important because of the speed of transfer, rather than simply the volume.

Before an area is built on, rain soaks into the ground (unless waterlogged) and then makes its way gradually and slowly to streams then rivers. After being built on, the rain is piped directly to the river (in most cases) so is an almost instantaneous transfer.

This is not the entire answer, or even explanation, and I am fully supportive of the pressure to restore dredging that the EA and EU seem to oppose for merely ideological reasons. Almost the entire area of England is managed, whether farmland, forest, or built up. That management cannot be neglected without the most serious consequences, which we have just seen. We should not stand around wringing our hands like ninnies pretending, as Monbiot does that "re-wilding" is an option, or that CAGW is to blame.

Jan 5, 2016 at 3:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterBudgie

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