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EXTENSION TO THE WITHDRAWAL DEADLINE TO 31st OCTOBER 2018

In May 2016, the Environment Agency agreed to extend the withdrawal notice until 31st March 2017 whilst work continues on revising the proposals for a new Water Level Management Board and to allow for further consultation.  The Environment Agency has now agreed to further extend the Notice period until 31st October 2018.

This decision reflects the need to provide a realistic timescale to address issues within the Land Drainage Act 1991, in particular the development of a new methodology for apportioning the costs of operating a Water Level Management Board.  In December 2016, Defra confirmed their view that there is a potential difficulty in applying the provisions within the Land Drainage Act in situations where the required valuation and rating information is either unavailable or incomplete. The methodology within the Act for apportioning the costs of running a Board stipulates that 1990 rateable values are required in order to value non-agricultural land and buildings, but in practice, many of these rateable values are no longer available. Under the 1991 Act in its current form, using other figures such as the most recent rateable values to calculate the drainage rates and special levy, would fail to meet the current requirements within the Act. Defra are now seeking to secure Parliamentary time, with a view to securing the necessary changes to the legislation.

For a Water Level Management Board to be established, it must be clear that there is community support. The results of the public consultation in 2015 showed there was a mixed response to the proposed Board from the agricultural land occupiers and landowners that voted, and a significant proportion did not respond. It has been agreed with the agricultural community that there will be a further consultation once the proposals have been revised and this will take place once the new methodology for apportioning costs has been drafted.

We are now working on a programme of actions that can be progressed by the Advisory Group member organisations and representatives. Activities to be progressed for the Waver Wampool include:

  • obtaining legal opinion on revising the boundary of the proposed Water Level Management Board;
  • progressing actions to develop the environmental proposals;
  • reviewing the condition of the channels and channel structures; and
  • planning for further consultation.

The timing of the next public consultation will be dependent on the drafting of new legislation but it is hoped that further consultation will be possible in early 2018.

The Environment Agency will continue to operate the pumping stations during the notice period and undertake the maintenance of main river watercourses in line with its annual maintenance programme. This extension reflects their continued commitment to work with the community to explore alternative options for local water level management, but it is important that an agreed way forward is clear before the end of October 2018.

For more information about the extension to the Notice period, please contact Dale Gibbons, Environment Agency Senior Advisor, Flood Risk & Coastal Management based in Cumbria and Lancashire.  Telephone on 02030255729 or email: dale.gibbons@environment-agency.gov.uk