Environment Agency hits back after criticism from election hopefuls

The flooded A631 road and many acres of farmland at Bishopbridge. Picture: Julian Anyan
The flooded A631 road and many acres of farmland at Bishopbridge. Picture: Julian Anyan

Officials at the under-fire Environment Agency have defended their efforts to combat flooding amid fresh criticism from the area’s General Election candidates.

The four candidates - Sir Edward Leigh (Cons), Mary Cavill (Independent), Perry Smith (Lab) and Lesley Rollings (Lib Dem) - took part in a Hustings-style radio programme recently.

It was alleged one of the main factors in recent flooding which has devastated huge swathes of land is the poor maintenance of local waterways.

However, the EA has hit back and insisted it had done everything it could to reducing flooding - and claimed record rainfall was responsible.

The Market Rasen and Caistor areas have been badly hit by flooding, leading to long delays on roads and fears of price rises and shortages of everyday food items.

Concerns over flooding - and who is actually responsible for dealing with it - were high on the agenda in the debate involving the candidates.

Ms Cavill explained she grew up in a village where a field was ‘constantly flooded’. She warned a housing estate now ‘sat on top’ of the field - and the catchment pond near the estate still flooded every time it rains.

She added: “Something has to be done by someone - is it the council’s priority or is it the water companies that are at fault?”

Sir Edward, who will be hoping to retain his Parliamentary seat, said: “The Environment Agency (EA) and I have had numerous conversations and they would claim that there has been a record amount of rain this year, which is true.

“But I would argue that they have not been clearing out the dykes and streams to the extent that they should have- and did do in the past.”

Mr Smith highlighted how climate change was another contributing factor.

He said: “We’re in the middle of a climate crisis and we have got to look at the bigger picture all the time.

“The climate crisis is huge - if we look across Lincolnshire there is flooding all over the place.”

Mrs Rollings also pointed the finger of blame at the maintenance of the area’s waterways.

She added: “There is a reason why some people are surviving and some people aren’t - and it is to do with the maintenance of waterways.

“We need to get the forces of water to a level where the local people - the local drainage boards - can manage them.”

The Rasen Mail contacted the EA after the debate.

A spokesperson said: “We know flooding can be disruptive which is why we work closely with our partners like the county council and local drainage boards to manage and reduce the risk – not just in times of flooding, but year-round.

“After every flood, the county council, as the lead local flood authority, carries out a post-flood review, called a Section 19 report - along with all other organisations with a responsibility for flood risk.

“Lessons arising from this review will feed into recommendations for reducing flood risk.

“This autumn, Lincolnshire had twice its average rainfall which is what caused the flooding.

“However, overall, our flood defences have done their job.

“Less than 1% of the county’s agricultural land was affected by flooding – again proving that our reservoirs and raised embankments held up well despite the pressure they were put under by the excess rainfall.

“We regularly carry out routine maintenance on main rivers, including inspections, repairs, removing obstructions, and grass and weed control.

“We’re already planning for climate change, building climate change projections into the design of our defences to make sure they are fit for the future.”