Saturday, June 30, 2007

We'd boost flood prevention, says Tory MP

A Conservative government would refocus the Environment Agency to spend more on flood defences and less on consultants, a Tory MP said.

During a live webchat hosted by the Eastern Daily Press, South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon was asked the following:

"A shortfall in funding for coastal defences has rendered the Upper Thurne and its broads vulnerable to salt incursion. If the system becomes saline, it's diversity will be lost forever.

"Thousands of wading birds including some of our rarest species have lost their eggs or chicks on Welney Washes. What steps will you take to begin addressing the affects of climate change on our rivers and their wildlife.

Mr Bacon responded:

"Spend more of the Environment Agency's budget on actual flood defences and protecting against coastal erosion. We took evidence from the chief executive of the Environment Agency the day before yesterday and it was not a happy experience.

"They have poor information, they don't necessarily spend the most money in the areas of highest risk, and they waste millions commissioning endless studies from consultants and "developing plans" rather than delivering improved flood defences.

"On top of this, in light of climate change, there is a case for increasing the resources devoted to flood defence but it is essential to spend the existing money wisely and the Environment Agency, which has already seen a substantial increase in cash in recent years, is not doing this.

The Thurne system is arguably one of Britain's most historically-important pike fisheries. It is under real threat from rising sea levels, after the EA's announcement that a £6m budget shotfall left it unable to continue to repair flood defences on the North-east Norfolk coastline.

Privately, EA fisheries staff fear a major fish kill is imminent when flood water standing on Welney Washes is released into the neighbouring Delph - another important pike fishery under threat from climate change and siltation in the tidal Ouse.