Memorandum submitted by Mr Roger Lankester,
Marine Ecology & Sailing (A38)
Thank you for the opportunity to submit evidence
to the above inquiry. My submission will address the matter of:
The opportunities and difficulties
faced by agriculture as a result of possible reductions in production
for farm land which has an interface with the sea
at tidal rivers, estuaries and coastal waters. As background to
this memorandum I would ask that reference is made to my evidence
contained in the Agriculture Committee's Sixth ReportFlood
& Coastal Defence. In particular Appendix 46 and specifically
the enclosures relating to Greensail and the Environment Agencies
material on managed realignment.
It is a matter of historical record that large
areas of land used for agriculture at the land/sea interface were
claimed from the sea, a process that has taken place over a number
of centuries. Such areas are normally located around the low energy
coastline of tidal rivers and estuaries. The original natural
order of these areas was mudflats and salt marsh, habitat that
was once considered to be of little value. A perception that was
badly misplaced, both in terms of wildlife interest and the economic
value of salt marsh as an attenuating influence on wave energy,
minimising the cost of coastal flood defences. These issues are
well illustrated in the enclosures with the above Appendix 46.
As a result of growing awareness of the value
of inter-tidal mudflats and salt marsh flood and coastal defence
policy has evolved in favour of restoring these lost areas to
their original status prior to reclamation. The economic reason
for such a policy is obvious. Repairing coastal defences can cost
up to £1,000 per metre to repair. Taking a square one hectare
parcel of coastal land to protect from flooding the cost of repairing
the flood defence embankment would be £100,000 to the tax
payer. However, in many places the protected areas of reclaimed
land are narrow strips with the cost of repairing the defences
substantially more than this figure. Such land is no longer environmentally
or economically sustainable.
A further aspect is that when the land was originally
claimed from the sea it automatically became the property of the
adjacent land owner. Although the land was claimed in the past
by coastal agricultural communities and landlords, largely through
their own efforts, the current flood defence costs are provided
entirely from public funds. Where the land is no longer needed
to grow food or graze animals there is clearly no economic or
social reason for the high cost of maintaining the flood defences.
A form of farming subsidy.
A generous financial package is now available
to coastal land owners who contribute suitable land for managed
realignment projects. This enables the Environment Agency to re-establish
the sea defence embankment in a set back position on higher ground
thus minimising the cost of any sea defence infrastructure. Breaching
the old embankment allows the sea to return reclaiming the inter-tidal
area. Subsequently, given the right conditions, salt marsh re-establishes
creating much needed wildlife habitat and attenuation of the wave
energy reducing the cost of any new sea defence structures.
Although I have some knowledge of the financial
package available to coastal farmers this is by no means exhaustive
and I would recommend the committee obtain accurate and up to
date information from the Environment Agency or DEFRA officials,
this should also include the current project assessment protocols.
However, despite what to the majority of citizens
is a generous financial package there appears to be a very limited
take up of this opportunity by coastal farmers. The reasons are
unclear given what seems to be the obvious advantage of the policy.
It may be that the psychological break with the lost land is too
greater sacrifice for the farmer. In which case the primary objective
is land ownership with farming activity the validation for its
Alternatively it may be that the area of the
land lost from agricultural use for a coastal farm makes the remaining
land area too small to be financially viable. If this is the case
then the solution may be to diversify into ancillary activities
for the farmer.
Enclosed are some colour prints showing low
density yacht moorings on a salt marsh. As can be seen the low
density and random mooring pattern avoid an unacceptable visual
intrusion into the landscape. The timber walkways and staging
allow the natural geomorphology of the salt marsh to develop unimpaired
with access to each craft avoiding trampling the plants. The boats
do not detract from the wildlife interest of the site. The one
illustrated is a SSSI & SPA.
An average charge of £500 per annum is
made to moor each craft and at a density of 30 per hectare this
would yield an income of £15,000 per hectare per annum. Maintenance
costs, security etc would need to be deducted to determine clear
profit. Also other chargeable services might be provided such
as hard standings ashore, DIY maintenance facilities in redundant
farm buildings, launching and recovery services using adapted
farm machinery. There is already a related project in the Netherlands
called "mooring with the farmer". The Environment Agency
has shown that the income from yacht moorings can yield a return
1.6 times that for equivalent farmed land.
There is no reason why the newly created inter-tidal
area resulting from a managed realignment project should not be
similarly used to augment the income of the adjacent farm.
What would need to be considered is the terms
and conditions to be applied by government. The inter-tidal area
could become the property of the Crown Estate with automatic lease-back
arrangements to the farmer. Or the farmer might receive a reduced
compensation package but retain the freehold rights to the site.
A further requirement would be permitted development rights for
craft up to a density of say 35 boats per hectare, this would
be comparable to the exemptions granted under the Town and Country
Planning Act for agricultural buildings.
I would invite the committee to consider this
option to solve the economic problems of environmentally sustainable
12 December 2001