Landowners urged to join forces to save valuable farmland from floods

Footpath on the Haven bank near Boston Tip, collapsed after water breached the bank and flooded the area.
Footpath on the Haven bank near Boston Tip, collapsed after water breached the bank and flooded the area.

A Boston-area farmer is calling on landowners hit by the tidal surge to form a flood risk group to safeguard arable land used for food production.

Hugh Drake, who has 1400 acres of farmland bordering The Wash at Friskney, made the call after 600 acres were flooded on December 5 – destroying crops and rendering the land unusable for food production.

The land affected included his own and his neighbours’.

“Crops will have been ruined, they won’t survive this because they are drowned under 18 inches of water,” he 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.

A member of Country, Land and Business Association (CLA) and the Witham Fourth District Internal Drainage Board, Mr Drake said a privately owned bank defending the land needs immediate repairs and a greater level of guardianship from local landowners to prevent future floods causing damage to land vital for the country’s food security.

“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 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. There were two gaps in it where it has been breached, which added up to 100 metres in total.

The CLA, in order to facilitate a quicker resolution, have liaised with Natural England to ensure vital repairs can be carried out more easily.

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.”