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Euston Estate farmer allows land to flood to protect Thetford

  • By Zoie O’Brien & Lewis Adams
  • BBC News, in Euston

image source, Shaun Whitmore/BBC

image captions,

Andrew Blenkiron said the Euston Estate was storing floodwater to protect settlements downstream

One farmer said he let hundreds of acres of his land flood to protect settlements downstream.

Andrew Blenkiron, of Euston Estate near Thetford in Suffolk, said the River Black Bourn had burst its banks several times in recent months.

He said by storing water, farmers can protect others from floods.

Mr Blenkiron said he had received “small payments” from the government to protect grasslands but called for more compensation for farmers.

“Behind me there are about 100 acres of water, usually grazed by sheep preparing for calving time,” he said. Further towards Thetford, there are another 300-400 acres under water.”

“It’s actually holding back some of the water, preventing it from flooding Thetford.”

image source, Shaun Whitmore/BBC

image captions,

The Black Bourn River has burst its banks several times in recent months

Mr. Blenkiron called on the government and big, environmentally-conscious businesses to help fund making agricultural land more efficient at storing water.

However, he explains that there have been benefits for farmers, such as helping to create grasslands ready for cattle and sheep to graze in the summer.

He said stored water can also be pumped into fields during dry summer months.

“Obviously it’s not suitable for everyone,” Mr. Blenkiron added.

“Those with productive farmland that needs protection from flooding must be given priority.

“We have to focus on producing food for everyone in this country, there’s no question about that.”

image source, Shaun Whitmore/BBC

image captions,

Around 500 acres of agricultural land on the Euston Estate could be flooded

The farmer said he witnessed up to 8 centimeters of rain in one day.

“The intensity and frequency of those extremes are happening now that farmers on the front lines are facing,” he said.

The National Farmers Union says those who deliberately flood land to protect people and property are “exercising the public interest” but requested further assistanceincluding from the Environment Agency.

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it was “acutely aware” of the impact of extreme weather on farmers.

“Farmers who have suffered uninsurable damage to their land due to exceptional flooding will be able to apply for grants of up to £25,000 through the farming recovery fund,” they said.

The spokesman said Defra had protected more than 400,000 hectares of farmland from the impact of flooding since 2015.

EA added: “We work closely with farmers and we can dredge water sources where there is evidence that it would be beneficial.”


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