‘Flood defences and better broadband should be our priorities in 2014’

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Cutting legislation regarding flood defences and better broadband for the county should be top of the agenda for Lincolnshire in 2014, according to a body representing the area’s landowners,

CLA Lincolnshire Chairman Roger Douglas outlined his hopes for the coming 12 months, with flooding fresh in everyone’s minds after the impact of the events of December 5 in Boston and beyond.

Mr Douglas said: “The recent flooding has shown the importance of our coastal defences and the need for the Government to invest in them.

“The situation is far from ideal with EA withdrawing from previous levels of spending. Coasts and rivers need sufficient resourcing and management to ensure the impacts of flooding and erosion are kept to an absolute minimum to safeguard rural businesses.

“In terms of food security, there is an essential need to protect an important asset for the future particularly with climate change. Defence of fine arable land is for the public good, and if the Government isn’t going to do it then 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.

“Reform of water licences is also a hot topic in this part of the world and I hope that the case for the need for water in agriculture is forcefully made.

“Water is the life blood of eco systems; farmers must be able to store water by building on-farm reservoirs and there should be no radical change in abstraction licensing in the Water Bill.

“Water management is a problem for everyone. With pressure on supplies, much needs to be done to educate householders on the true value of water and to encourage more responsible usage across the whole of society, including farmers.”

According to Mr Douglas, businesses across Lincolnshire are being put at a competitive disadvantage by the slow internet speeds currently available. He said it was vital that better broadband was made available for all across the county, adding: “Broadband is as vital as water, electricity and gas and should be looked on as the fourth utility, and more progress needs to be made in order for rural businesses in Lincolnshire to flourish.

“The CLA is very concerned that despite significant funding many areas are still going to be left without workable broadband after 2015, and, as a result, we will continue to lobby Government for more support for connectivity to rural areas.”

Rural crime was also an important issue for Mr Douglas, and he said he would be working closely with Lincolnshire Police to make sure crimes such as hare coursing, fuel and metal thefts, and fly grazing are efficiently dealt with. “It is important for members to report all rural crime, however trivial it may appear,” he said.

Finally, Mr Douglas said he hoped the New Year would bring encouraging news for the county’s farmers regarding the finer details of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform.

He said: “The CLA has lobbied hard to help keep modulation as low as possible, now at 12 percent from the suggested maximum figure of 15 percent.

“Defra has indicated that other CAP decisions will follow early in the New Year after further consultation with key industry stakeholders. I hope that whatever is decided will help farmers to run their businesses with confidence and will promote a level playing field with our competitors.”