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Cowbit farmer calls for Crowland and Tongue End river breaches to be a ‘wake-up call’ and labels Environment Agency ‘not fit for purpose’





‘We have been let down by the Environment Agency’ – is the message from our communities after banks of two swollen rivers collapsed last week.

The Environment Agency (EA), which is responsible for managing some of the area’s rivers, has come under fire for not maintaining the banks in the Crowland and Tongue End areas after flood water has swamped nearby farmland.

Farmers in the Crowland and Cowbit Wash area feel that the chance of producing next year’s crops is going to be a ‘remote’ due to the impact of the flooding.

The hole in the bank of the Cowbit and Crowland washes
The hole in the bank of the Cowbit and Crowland washes

Cowbit farmer and councillor Trevor Tyrrell has lost crops due to breach in Cowbit and Crowland washes and 50% of his farmland has been affected by this.

He said: “We have been very very badly let down by the EA. They don’t seem to be answerable to anyone. This has to be a wake-up call.”

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His son William Tyrrell says food production across the country is being lost though the EA’s incompetence – an issue that is particularly acute here given that Greater Lincolnshire produces 30% of the nation’s vegetables.

William Tyrrell, Nicholas Watts, Coun Trevor Tyrrell and Stephen Skells with the punt guns in Cowbit
William Tyrrell, Nicholas Watts, Coun Trevor Tyrrell and Stephen Skells with the punt guns in Cowbit

He said: “The South Forty Foot Drain is over topping and is managed by the EA. The Bourne Eau is an EA river which has slipped its banks. There seems to be a pattern emerging that the EA is not fit for purpose and unfit for what they are doing.

“We haven’t heard of the Vernatt’s Drain overflowing and that is run by the Welland and Deepings Internal Drainage Board. There haven’t been issues because they manage it. The IDBs look after and manage their property - the EA don’t care or are not bothered.”

Mr Tyrrell said the EA had not dredged rivers and dykes to protect wildlife – and questioned the good of that considering that the habitat is now under water.

A hole in the bank of the River Welland in the Crowland and Cowbit Washes PHOTO: HADEN BRITTAIN
A hole in the bank of the River Welland in the Crowland and Cowbit Washes PHOTO: HADEN BRITTAIN

He had spoken to a consultant over a period of a few days who had driven down to see what was living in the water filled dykes.

Mr Tyrrell said: “They have not dredged the dykes because of the wildlife that has probably displaced what was there. It’s shortsighted thinking.

“At the present moment the Government don’t care about food production they are not worried about food production as they can buy it cheaper from abroad. All they are interested in is the environment or carbon savings. We are shifting our carbon and environmental impacts onto other countries that care less about it than our selves. They don’t care about food production they are only interested in protecting themselves.”

Crowland Abbey can be seen in the background of the flooding
Crowland Abbey can be seen in the background of the flooding

Crowland councillor and former firefighter Nigel Pepper feels that this incident highlights the need for the banks to be strengthened.

Coun Pepper said: “In my time with Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service I attended many flooding incidents the worst being when flood water mixed with foul drainage had entered people’s property.

“Whilst there has been flooding to properties in South Lincolnshire, fortunately with the breach of the River Welland near Crowland the water was contained in the ‘wash’ and flooded farm land only.

“Whilst we have seen ‘over-topping’ of river water into the wash before, such as 1998, on this occasion the river bank gave way at a weak point causing it to be breached, the first breach of a bank in this vicinity since the floods of 1947.

Coun Nigel Pepper, represents Crowland on Lincolnshire County Council
Coun Nigel Pepper, represents Crowland on Lincolnshire County Council

“The wash side of the river bank is intentionally lower that the Deeping High Bank Road side of the river in order that should flooding occur the water naturally enters the wash, which in-turn protects the likes of Crowland and Cowbit from flooding.

“Farmers with land in the wash are all aware that this event could happen at some point, but all lived in hope that it wouldn’t and those with early crops growing will now have them ruined and the land will take a while to recover.

“I understand the Environment Agency say that Crowland and Cowbit Washes are coming to the end of their design life and have undertaken a project to look at their future use, this event is proof and an early warning that the wash flood plain did in some respect what it was designed to do and the need for strengthening and prevention needs to be a focus of attention with our ever changing climate and flooding becoming more and more frequent.”

South Holland MP Sir John Hayes
South Holland MP Sir John Hayes

South Holland and the Deepings MP Sir John Hayes is asking for an urgent meeting with the EA to discuss the problems.

He said: “I think they need to come down and meet some of the affected people.

“The issue with flooding now is that some crops in the ground and a lot of people still have potatoes in the ground so there is more chance of not having a high value.

“The EA can’t be responsible for the weather but what we can do in response is for the Government to support British farmers and growers.”

An Environment Agency spokesperson told us last week: As a result of the recent rainfall from Storm Henk, which fell on already saturated catchments, we are aware that a breach has now developed at Cowbit Wash on the River Welland.

“The area the water is filling is a flood storage reservoir and no properties are currently at risk.”

What do you think? Has the EA let the area down? Post a comment below



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