Make amends for flood report - MEP

A Euro-MP is calling for compensation for people living in villages threatened by flooding proposals now withdrawn by government conservation advisers.

A Euro-MP is calling for compensation for people living in villages threatened by flooding proposals now withdrawn by government conservation advisers.

Richard Howitt, Labour MEP for the East of England, wants Natural England to pay out following the leaking last year of a draft report that proposed flooding 25 square miles of the Broads as one of four options.

In the final version of the report, published yesterday, Natural England bowed to public pressure and removed any reference to the proposals, which would have surrendered at least six villages, hundreds of homes, thousands of acres of farmland and some of Norfolk's top wildlife sites to the sea.

It supports “holding the line” of existing coastal defences between Eccles and Winterton for the next 50 years, but warned that sea level rise caused by climate change remains a threat.

Mr Howitt said: “Natural England mismanaged the situation and should be held to account for that. Where people can demonstrate that they have suffered financial loss - for example, they couldn't sell their house and they needed to for work or family reasons, or they couldn't get insurance - there's a very strong case for Natural England to compensate them.”

Mr Howitt insisted such a scheme was workable, citing examples of people compensated for financial loss incurred through subsidence caused by mining, or through the collapse of Equitable Life.

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Shaun Thomas, Natural England's regional director, said: “Natural England have always maintained, following the leaked report, that we support the flood risk policy and the level of protection for homes which has been guaranteed for at least the next 50 years. This level of protection is no different today than it was before the report was produced.

“With reference to any compensation for any houses affected by flooding, within its policy 'Making Space for Water', Defra recognises that mechanisms to enable successful adaptation are required to assist land owners, communities and the environment adjust to the impacts of climate change. Whether direct compensation is available within the mechanisms that are developed will be for government to decide.”

Yesterday's concessions were welcomed by the Country Land and Business Association which said consistent lobbying of Natural England and the government had paid off.

The loss of thousands of acres of farmland, some of it the best quality in the country, had not originally been taken into account, it added.

Norfolk director Nicola Currie said: “We are delighted. We realise that the battle is not won by any means, but our argument that we must safeguard the elements we need to maintain food production - land and water - does seem to have struck a chord. “

Paul Hammett, senior policy adviser to the National Farmers' Union, welcomed Natural England's support for holding the line for the next 50 years.

“We would like to see the status quo maintained for even longer if we can, but we should recognise the risks posed by climate change and begin to plan accordingly,” he said.