Friskney farmer calls on Wash landowners to form flood risk group after surge inundates hundres of acres

Stormy seas off Skegness.
Stormy seas off Skegness.
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A Friskney farmer has called on fellow landowners around The Wash hit by the recent tidal surge to consider forming a flood risk group in order to help safeguard prime arable land vital for food production.

Hugh Drake, who has 1,400 acres of farmland bordering The Wash at Friskney, has made the call after a total of 600 acres of land, including some of his own and his neighbours’, was flooded following the combination of a severe storm, seasonal high tide, and a tidal surge last week.

Mr Drake, a CLA member (Country Land and Business Association) and an elected member of Witham Fourth District Internal Drainage Board, says that a privately owned bank defending the land not only needs immediate repairs, but also a greater level of guardianship from local landowners so any future tidal events do not cause similar damage.

“This is a very good time to co-ordinate a strategic group of Wash farmers and landowners,” Mr Drake said. “We currently have 600 acres of very good farmland growing sea weed.

“This farmland on the western side of The Wash is probably some of the best farmland in the country; the whole of the Wash basin going all the way down to Cambridge is full of some very, very good soil.

“This is extremely valuable land in the context of growing food for the nation.”

This privately owned flood defence, the Jubilee Bank, was built in 1977 and runs for about 30 miles from Boston to Gibraltar Point. Mr Drake explained that there were two gaps in it where it has been breached, which added up to 100 metres in total.

“Crops will have been ruined, they won’t survive this because they are drowned under 18 inches of water,” Mr Drake said. “Some of the land was bare and ploughed waiting for the spring, and some of the land is already into winter wheat, which had just emerged, and there are one or two brassica crops belonging to neighbours.”

Mr Drake said that it could take 10 years to return the land to production.

The CLA, is currently in discussions with Natural England about emergency access to The Wash so vital repairs can be carried out.

CLA East Regional Director Nicola Currie said: “We are attempting to help affected landowners in Lincolnshire and across the eastern region, such as Mr Drake, to address problems in this emergency situation by liaising with Natural England and the Environment Agency, passing on contact details for key local contacts, and giving guidance and support.

“In terms of food security, there is an essential need to protect an important asset for the future particularly with climate change. There is no point losing land now that will be essential for food production in the future.

“Defence of fine arable land is for the public good, and it should be made as easy as possible for the landowner to do it – as long as he doesn’t compromise his neighbour’s land.”