‘Our flood defences saved us from ruin,’ says NFU chairman

NFU Holland (Lincolnshire) branch chairman Ian Stancer with his late dog Ben.
NFU Holland (Lincolnshire) branch chairman Ian Stancer with his late dog Ben.
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Dykes and drains have saved South Holland farmers from the worst effects of the current flooding crisis, according to the area’s top agricultural official.

Ian Stancer, chairman of NFU Holland (Lincolnshire) branch, said that only a “cataclysmic rain event” could cause problems for farmers growing potatoes and other crops to sell in shops and supermarkets.

But he warned that farmers still faced a threat from the North Sea if high winds brought sea water over flood defences at The Wash, saturating the land and making it impossible to grow crops for several years.

Mr Stancer said: “As far as we’re concerned in the Fens, and in South Holland in particular, the flooding crisis is unlikely to happen here in the way as it has in south west England.

“If we get lots and lots of rain, most of it goes down the dykes and into the drains run by (Welland and Deepings) Internal Drainage Board unless there is a cataclysmic rain event.

“Our main danger comes from the sea and just before Christmas, when there was a very high tide, we were very lucky that the wind direction was in our favour and blowing out to the North Sea.

“If it had been coming off The Wash, with a low pressure over the North Sea, we would have had more of a breach of the flood defences.

“The sea water would have then inundated the land and it would have been several years before we could grow crops again because there aren’t many crops you can grow in sea water because of its salt.”

In his weekly column in our sister paper, the Lincolnshire Free Press, on Tuesday, South Holland and the Deepings MP John Hayes revealed that the Government was investing £2.4 million over the next four years in improving flood defences and relief.

This is in response to the devastating floods that have hit Somerset over the last three months, leaving farmland under water and forcing people out of their homes.

Mr Stancer said: “We’re limited in what we can do for the south west because we don’t tend to have a lot of forage in this area.

“We’re lucky that we have fully-functioning drainage boards in the Fens, being the horticultural capital of the county.”