Memorandum submitted by Mr. Barri Hitchin (FW 15)
Thank you for the opportunity to respond on this matter.
Having been an Appointed Member of two Somerset Drainage Boards in the past, I have had the opportunity to see from the inside, the extreme bias of agricultural interest that is encouraged by DEFRA and it's sponsored subservient, the Environment Agency. This can be seen with the make-up of IDB focussed Flood Defence Committees. Much has been made about Conservation being represented (by RSPB), however even they believe that this can only be achieved through intensive agriculture/drainage and again is supported by Wildlife Trusts etc.
Another DEFRA sponsored Agency is un Natural England (formerly English Nature), which in the past, have suggested that large course fish killed by agri-chemicals in the 1997 floods, should be replaced by stickle-backs.
I remember recently an MP and a keen angler, addressing a Commons Select Committee on a related subject and I don't believe he would agree with this. He was also surprised that his local Environment Agency had no knowledge of buffer strips.
There is no proper enforcing regulator and this has led to a total disregard of Conservation obligations - with destructive impact on the Somerset LEVELS. I don't see how this Bill does not infringe the Human Rights Act (see Preface to Bill).
I would ask the Committee to visualize a main river that has been drained to the mud by the Environment Agency to implement the IDB's WLMP and ask how this is a fit and proper thing to do? Worryingly, this drained water has to go somewhere else and in times of heavy rainfall this is pumped into already full rivers - which results in the flooding of our roads, villages and towns.
As a concerned resident, I have asked my insurer for some comfort with regard to cover, especially with regard to CLIMATE CHANGE etc. I was told that cover may no longer be available in the future.
Much has been made about the importance of FOOD SECURITY, however I don't believe that a proper RISK ASSESSMENT has been made, complete with factoring in the extremely high cost of FLOOD damage and loss of life.
I remember many years ago MAFF promising an Environmental Impact Assessment on IDB agri-drainage WLMP's, but this has not been actioned by DEFRA. It is no surprise to me that this agri-drainage is disregarded by the Environment Agency in their CAMS survey on water abstraction - by why is it disregarded?
Also why is this not addressed at 36(2) Water Use temporary bans of the Bill?
See also 38(2) and why at 38 (4) is there no public consultation? Human Rights Act?
This practice disregards Schedule 3 Sustainable Drainage 2 (a) to (e)
At 37 Civil Sanctions - why is EU legislation disregarded?
It is quite preposterous that these damaging pumping operations are paid for by the Tax Payer in the mistaken belief that their roads and houses are being defended, when clearly the reverse is true - but what about the carbon footprint cost of the pumping?
I remember, someone from Local Government told me that these issues can be resolved at the Ballot Box. However I know of no evidence of any Political Party taking these issues up.
This Bill will never be implemented in the interests of FLOOD PREVENTION and CONSERVATION, whilst DEFRA and its Agencies are exerting a broader agenda.
There is some hope if this is taken over by an independent, say the TREASURY who would have an interest in the bottom line, risk assessment and compensation etc.