Memorandum submitted by English Nature
1. English Nature is the statutory body
that champions the conservation and enhancement of the wildlife
and natural features of England. We work for wildlife in partnership
with others, by:
other agencies, local authorities, interest groups, business communities
and individuals on nature conservation in England;
affecting the special nature conservation sites in England;
enablingothers to manage
land for nature conservation, through grants, projects and information;
nature conservation for all and biodiversity as a key test of
2. We have statutory responsibilities for
nationally-important nature conservation sites: Sites of Special
Scientific Interest, the most important of which are managed as
National Nature Reserves.
3. Through the Joint Nature Conservation
Committee, English Nature works with sister organisations in Scotland,
Wales and Northern Ireland to advise Government on UK and international
nature conservation issues.
A STRATEGIC APPROACH
4. In the light of increased storminess
and rainfall events, English Nature believes that a long-term
strategic approach to flood-defence planning is now needed, and
that there are distinct benefits from working with nature wherever
5. English Nature, therefore, recommends:
5.1 the adoption of catchment-level flood
management strategies and flood defence planning;
5.2 greater use of washland areas and land-use
changes in order to reduce flood risks;
5.3 consideration for the development of
an incentive scheme for landowners and land managers to facilitate
flood relief measures.
6. The recent flooding of Lewes in West
Sussex illustrates the need and opportunities for such approaches.
Flooding of the town resulted from river water meeting a tidal
surge in a constrained channel. Opportunities for creation of
washland exist above the town on agricultural land and below the
town on Lewes Brooks SSSI, which requires higher water levels.
The SSSI could be used for freshwater storage. There is also the
opportunity to create saltmarsh, through set back of floodbanks
in the estuary. These options should be considered as part of
a strategic approach to flood management in the Ouse catchment.
7. Drainage for agriculture and the erection
of floodbanks along rivers has led to significant losses in biodiversity,
including characteristic aquatic wildlife communities. Currently,
some 400 Sites of Special Scientific Interest in England are at
risk from flood defence and drainage.
8. The designation of new areas of washland,
into which river flows can be diverted, will be a key element
of this approach. The Nene Washes demonstrate the dual benefits
of helping to protect Peterborough from flooding and contributing
to biodiversity targets, with 1,310 hectares of farmland classified
as a European Special Protection Area for birds.
9. Retaining more rainfall in the upper-catchment
gathering grounds of rivers is important in moderating peak flows,
by spreading them over a longer period. Ways of improving water
retention include restoration of canalised streams, the recreation
of meadows, fens, pasture and wet woodlandall of which
will benefit biodiversity.
10. At a catchment level, areas should be
identified through hydrological modelling:
(a) where new wildlife habitats could be
(b) where it may be appropriate to change
agricultural land use; and
(c) where urban development would be inappropriate
because of flood risk.
11. As part of a wider Floodplain Restoration
Initiative, English Nature is undertaking research into appropriate
incentives that could be offered to farmers and landowners for
providing areas of "washland". If some of the flood
risk can be reduced by washland creation, it should lessen the
need for extra urban defences, which are very costly to construct
10 November 2000