More flexibility on flooding

NFU Scotland has been continuing its dialogue with environmental agency SEPA over the need for greater flexibility for controlled management of gravel bars in rivers.

The build-up of such gravel bars has been identified by many farmers and others in rural Scotland as part of the reason this past winter’s flooding caused so much damage in some areas.

The gravel bars not only restricted flows in some parts of some rivers, causing them to burst their banks, but they also directed flood waters towards river banks, causing irreparable damage to the banks and often the land beyond.

Whilst there are currently some permits for management of such gravel bars, these are expensive and time consuming to apply for, and often unduly restrictive in what activity they permit.

In January 2016, after some of the worst flooding ever seen in some parts, NFU Scotland presented SEPA and Scottish Government with a list of proposed changes to the rules and the general approach of regulators and government to this issue.

The issue was debated at NFU Scotland’s Environment & Land Use (ELU) Committee this week, with committee members endorsing NFU Scotland’s work to date and wholeheartedly agreeing that there must be change in order to reduce the risk of flood damage to farmland.

Newly elected Chairman of the ELU Committee, Angus MacFadyen, from Bragleenmore, near Oban said after the meeting: “Farmers across a large swath of Scotland have told me that overly restrictive regulations have meant a lack of management of gravel bars in many rivers, significantly contributing to the serious flood damage to farmland this winter.

“We need to be given greater flexibility to manage these bars.”