FURTHER EXTENSION OF THE WITHDRAWAL DEADLINE TO 31st DECEMBER 2020
In May 2016, the Environment Agency wrote to landowners and occupiers in the Lyth Valley to advise them of a three year extension to the Notice period until the end of June 2019. The Environment Agency has now agreed to further extend the Notice period by 18 months to the 31 December 2020 and notice periods for pumping stations in the Waver Wampool and Alt Crossens catchments have also been extended.
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 there was a potential difficulty in applying the provisions within the Land Drainage Act 1991 in situations where the required valuation and rating information was either unavailable or incomplete. Specifically, amendment is needed as 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. In practice, many of these rateable values are not 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.
The Environment Agency remains committed to helping those affected find a sustainable way to manage the operation of these pumping stations and maintain land drainage for the benefit of agriculture in the Lyth Valley, whilst ensuring public funding for flood risk management is spent on the protection of people and property, in line with guidance provided by Defra. The continued support from communities and all interested parties to work with the EA remains critical to establishing a new Water Level Management Board that will, ultimately, take on the powers to manage water levels for agriculture, the local business community, the environment and support access and recreation in the area.
We are now working on a programme of actions that can be progressed by the Advisory Group member organisations and representatives, in parallel with any proposed legislative change. Activities for the Lyth Valley include
- undertaking modelling for Ulpha pumping station which has now been commissioned;
- obtaining legal opinion on setting the boundary of a future Water Level Management Board;
- progressing actions for the Environmental sub-group including a draft biodiversity action plan; and
- planning for further consultation.
The timing for a future public consultation will be dependent on any new legislation to recalculate the rates and levies in line with the proposed changes. The proposals with the results of this future consultation will then be submitted to South Lakeland District Council for their consideration. If this demonstrates community support for establishing a new Board, there will then be a formal review by Defra and consideration by the Secretary of State before any Water Level Management Board is formalised.
The Environment Agency will continue to operate the pumping stations at Ulpha and Sampool during the Notice period and undertake the maintenance of main river watercourses in line with the agreed annual maintenance programme. The pumping stations at Johnscales and Pool Bridge are currently not in operation and remain ‘mothballed’, though in the future the community may decide to operate these pumping stations.
The Environment Agency will continue to review how it prioritises maintenance of main river watercourses in the Lyth Valley catchment. All watercourse maintenance is prioritised on an annual basis and the programme for 2017/18 is currently being agreed and is due to be published in April 2017. The maintenance programme up to the end of March 2017 can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/river-and-coastal-maintenance-programme.