Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Richard Benyon MP (FL MP 13)

  Thank you for your letter of the 24 July. I am delighted that the Committee will be looking into this important issue when the House returns. There are a multitude of unanswered questions, with which I am wrestling, but I do believe there are two areas that need looking at. I concede that they may take your remit away from the precise area of interest with which the Committee is concerned.

  The first is, the impact of planning decisions on flood risk. Much has been said about building in flood plains, but I am principally concerned with the impact of in-fill developments. I can find no evidence of any survey that attempted to calculate the loss of "green" areas in our towns and villages. There has been much debate in Parliament about the definition of "brownfield land", which includes gardens. It is this policy that has seen a great number of in-fill developments in and around towns in West Berkshire. When you add to this the propensity for tarmac drives, patios and decking, the resultant loss of ground to soak up storm water is an important factor.

  The second area of concern is the way in which the Environment Agency manages our river systems. In the floods on Friday, 20 July, the villages of Eastbury and Great Shefford on the River Lambourn and the village of Bucklebury on the River Pang, flooded because of weed congestion in small chalkstream downland rivers. The inhabitants of these villages and others that have suffered similar experiences in the past, ask why these river systems are not kept clear of week to allow flash flood water to follow the river bed and avoid the flooding of so many houses. The Environment Agency points out that, had these rivers been cleared in the way that they were in the past, a severe head of water would have been created, causing much greater flooding lower down. This is of little comfort to the communities I mentioned above. If it is an accepted policy by the Environment Agency to slow water in this way, surely it must be necessary to create flood release schemes such as bunding or storm drainage channels, which allow water to escape when these flash storms occur, particularly in summer months. I am more than happy to provide more information on this if it would be helpful.

  I look forward to seeing the Committee's report.

Richard Benyon MP


July 2007

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