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« The greens' next deception | Main | Environmentalists trashing the environment, part 729 »

Not so simples

One of the more interesting suggestions about the reasons for the impact of the floods in the UK in recent weeks has been the suggestion that land use may be a factor. George Monbiot has been sounding off on this subject although it's difficult to take him seriously because he keeps drifting off into class-warrior mode, linking the floods to grouse moors and the like.

Today his green colleague Geoffrey Lean takes up the baton, with an article in the Independent which claims that the North Yorkshire town of Pickering avoided being flooded because of preventative measures taken by the locals:

They built 167 leaky dams of logs and branches – which let normal flows through but restrict and slow down high ones – in the becks above the town; added 187 lesser obstructions, made of bales of heather and fulfilling the same purpose, in smaller drains and gullies; and planted 29 hectares of woodland. And, after much bureaucratic tangling, they built a bund, to store up to 120,000 cubic metres of floodwater, releasing it slowly through a culvert.

The result, claims Lean was that Pickering stayed dry while everyone else flooded.

Unfortunately, a North Yorks farmer has noted in the comments that this is grossly misleading.

The North York Moors area above Pickering received far less rain than the other flooded areas mainly in the Pennines.  The rainfall through Christmas day and Boxing Day was rather gentle over a 48 hour period here and even over the high ground there was probably little more than 50mm.

The main installation which held back some water is a concrete dam with small outlet - that is a substantial engineering project. The implied success of  blocking streams with logs in natural channels - let alone planting (still tiny) new trees is not vindicated by this one modest rain event. Debris washing down streams has blocked bridges and channels in other areas. Logs laid in streams will rot quickly and be easily broken loose.

Planting trees may be helpful in some situations but any benefit would take decades to materialise. Peaty moorland is itself a good water store and planting trees in some situations will dry out and destroy peat. There are already thousands of acres of woodland around the edges of the North York Moors and there is little evidence run off from these areas is less than moorland or farmland nearby.

You can see why the Telegraph might have felt Lean was surplus to requirements.

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Reader Comments (65)

That is one savvy, objective and articulate rebuttal. Hire the farmer, fire the journalist!

Jan 3, 2016 at 1:41 PM | Unregistered Commenterbernie1815

Bernie beat me to it. I was going to post a warning against being too self-satisfied, since the rainfall's now switched to the eastern side of the Pennines. Having seen the weather forecast this lunchtime, the next couple of days should prove a better test of the design. Fingers crossed.

Jan 3, 2016 at 1:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterIan

"he keeps drifting off into class-warrior mode, linking the floods to grouse moors and the like."

Monbiot is a ruling class deep ecologist whose aim to to return the land to its unspoilt state and herd the peasants into back street city hovels. This is his mentor Sir Crispin Tickell

"Tickell counselled against spreading cities saying that we need denser living, that young adults should not expect to leave home straight away, and that older relatives could live in 'granny flats'

He is descended from French aristocracy

"His own ancestors lost their land over 200 years ago. Descended from the French Ducs de Coutard, they fled their estates outside Tours in the Loire Valley in 1789, when the local peasants, stirred by news of Revolution in Paris, began redistributing fields and occupying chateaux. The family slipped across to England and changed their name from Beaumont to Monbiot to evade revolutionary spies."

His father was a 'blood soaked' deputy chair of the Conservative party whose raison d'etre was to stamp on any kind of democracy in the party

Raymond Monbiot, former vice chair of the Conservative Party was behind rule changes to exclude members from voting for the leader

"In the final days of IDS, Peter Oborne pointed out Ray has wider responsibilities than drawing up reform plans:

'It should be borne in mind that Monbiot is one of the men in grey suits whose heavy duty might be to hand the party leader a bottle of whisky and a revolver in certain circumstances.'"

George Monbiot speaking at the Conservative party conference 2006 while his father was deputy leader:video,,1887360,00.html

Jan 3, 2016 at 1:52 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Watching the diggers in Glenridding dig out the river, I noticed how much wood debris there was. It looked like it had blocked the river and the river had decided to take an easier route down the high street. Having made the route, it was reluctant to revert to the original.

I also wonder if all the roads and peat damage for wind turbines might have exacerbated he problems. A small element but then so are most of the other things. Sadly the small things add up.

Jan 3, 2016 at 1:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

If the bath is overflowing because a tap is stuck on, don't make the sides bigger - enlarge the plughole.
(Assuming the Environment Agency haven't found a rare breed of louse living in all the muck in the u-bend)

Jan 3, 2016 at 2:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharlie Flindt

Monbiot's over arching philosophy is that of non interference in nature. He has a pathological hatred of farming, particularly of sheep. He even attacked that most Romantic of Englishmen, William Wordsworth.

'The Lake District is a wildlife desert. Blame Wordsworth

I revere Wordsworth the poet, but not his view of farming as a benign force. The Lakes fells don't need world heritage status – just fewer sheep...

I see it as one of the most depressing landscapes in Europe. It competes with the chemical deserts of East Anglia for the title of Britain's worst-kept countryside. The celebrated fells have been thoroughly sheepwrecked

You have to admire a man who invents his own words because English just isn't good enough..

Jan 3, 2016 at 2:06 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

When rain lands on an impermeable layer (natural or artificial) it runs off the surface. Many modern developments, housing roads etc, will drain into a 'balance pond' which may normall be dry. The balance pond will have an outlet, deliberately restricted or choked, do prevent discharge into natural or artificial drainage exceeding their capacity. This works, provided the balance pond is large enough in volume to cope with higher than average flow. Once the balanced pond fills, and overflows, its benefit is lost.

Creating balance ponds in upland areas can work on small streams, simply with natural dams of fallen logs and leaves. They may collapse due to the head of pressure. Such collapse will be far more destructive, a dam burst in effect.

Nature did this naturally with flood plains, man enhanced them with canals locks weirs and sluices. Then man built houses on the floodplains. And then man built more houses on the flood plains.

The response to Lean is correct. Interestingly, Pickering was an inland Lake bed, formed by glaciers blocking glacial meltwater. Then it overflowed, and carved a large overflow channel.

Jan 3, 2016 at 2:17 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

esmiff, Monbiot would be quite happy to have all UK farmland returned to nature. He can afford to have food flown to him from around the world, grown by people who place living more important than tourist photo opportunities.

Jan 3, 2016 at 2:24 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Pickering has a recent history of flooding and a recent history of the rivers being left to silt up.

From 2007: Joint campaign for rivers to be dredged

Pickering's Mayor Cllr Julie Hepworth said river maintenance and dredging should be a priority, and said residents recalled the days when they could swim in six feet of water in the beck above The Rookers, north of the town centre.

Cllr Hepworth said: "The beck hasn't been dredged for 27 years. You can hardly paddle in it now because it's so full of silt." And Peter Easterby, who farms at Great Habton, said: "You may find this hard to believe but I had two sheep walk across the Rye on willow trees to my neighbour's land.

And from 2002: Dredging demand follows beck flood

RENEWED calls are being made for Pickering Beck to be dredged and cleared of overhanging shrubbery in the wake of the recent flooding in the centre of the town.

And town councillors also want the Environment Agency to look at the possibility of using the mill race at Undercliffe and at Vivers Mill as a floodwater holding area.

A silted up town centre becomes a bottleneck for the water so it backs up and spreads out. It's not rocket science.

Based on Richard North's latest blogpost it looks like some of the problem is simply one of terminology. If locals were requesting 'de-silting' they might have got it whereas the EA hear 'dredging' and seemingly comes out in cold sweats.

Jan 3, 2016 at 2:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

I saw a TV programme recently that said that water isn't absorbed easily by grass covered fields, especially when on a slope, I would guess! (In fact, I have been told to keep a few feet of bare soil around trees to ensure the rain gets into the ground!)

The programme said that, while the EU was giving out money to remove hedges and trees from the Welsh mountains, it was the root system of large bushes and trees that allowed a lot of water to enter the ground, which is useful on the on the uplands. The rain followed the main roots down into the soil. So, not only did it reduce the peak flow, it also replenished the aquifers: a win win! So, while "planting trees may be helpful in some situations but any benefit would take decades to materialise", "not pulling up trees" would be very cost effective and instant! I thought farmers took long term view of their farm development.

Maybe, Pickering avoided being flooded because it had less rain in its hinterland, but that doesn't mean that DIY efforts should be dismissed. In many cases, it is the last inch or two of flood water that makes the situation much worse. The professionalisation of every task, from looking after children to washing food, ensures our skills die off as well as being an opportunity to include the activity into the tax system!

Preventative measures taken by the locals can encourage, heaven forbid, social interaction, awareness of the environment and even, dare I say it, development of survival skills, for the individual and the community. Professional guidance is needed from somewhere but, as a nation, we are massively in debt, so dismissing community efforts does seem odd.

Jan 3, 2016 at 2:33 PM | Registered CommenterRobert Christopher

According to wikipedia 'balancing lake' rather than balance pond

Jan 3, 2016 at 2:45 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

The concrete dam with small outlet undoubtedly had some effect in reducing the downstream flood peak. Flood control reservoirs have been used throughout the world where site conditions are favourable and funding is available. There is an implication that such structures could have been used elsewhere in Yorkshire but Pickering is a special case. The catchment area of Pickering Beck is only 69 square km and suitable dam sites existed in the relatively narrow valley. The River Ouse has a catchment area an order of magnitude greater and a flood control dam on that river with a wide floodplain is unlikely to be feasible. Information on the Pickering project can be found here:$FILE/stfap_final_report_Apr2011.pdf

Jan 3, 2016 at 2:45 PM | Unregistered Commenterpotentilla

Robert Christopher,

That alleged 'advice' regarding bare land 'improving' water absorbance into soil is hopelessly ignorant nonsense, and is precisely the opposite of what farmers are required to do under environmental stewardship legislation - leaving bare land over winter is very bad practice, leading to rapid water runoff, thereby causing both flooding and 'diffuse pollution' - i.e. erosion of soil through it being washed away.

Was it on the infinitely disinformative BBC by any chance?

Jan 3, 2016 at 2:55 PM | Registered Commenterflaxdoctor

As I mentioned before I get occasional insurance jobs.
One such job was in Ballinspittle (of moving statues fame)
It's a lovely West Cork village.
However they built a housing estate on a little hill above the village near the end of boom.
A summer rainstorm directed waters from the estate directly into a modest 1960s bungalow.
This village to my knowledge never recorded flooding before - nevermind in the summer!!

Never have I seen such obvious flooding as a result of development.
Many more cases must have overdevelopment as a factor.
The amount of Irish concrete poured to cater for cars - either monster driveways or the new roads to carry them reached biblical proportions since the 1970s.
I am sure it's the highest per capita in the world.
The runoff from concrete is extreme.

Jan 3, 2016 at 3:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

The growing of maize for feeding mega-dairy units and anaerobic digesters is a big problem. It is harvested late in the year and leaves bare ground over winter, which can result in soil compaction, water run-off and soil erosion. The growing of maize is another unintended consequence of Government strategy and planning policy.

Jan 3, 2016 at 3:07 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Planting commercial trees on blanket bog always results in peat damage.
However rewilding with birch, rowan etc is a entirely different matter.
In no way are both methods alike.

Jan 3, 2016 at 3:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

In my experience firebreaks on commercial forestry can get heavily rutted and turn into major streams after heavy rainfall.

North Yorkshire example.

A bothy in the Knoydart was nearly flattened by one a few years ago.

Jan 3, 2016 at 3:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

The ultimate in building lots of dams on hill sides would be terraced farming techniques. A possible source of the term 'Hanging gardens of Babylon'.

In areas with a tradition of growing rice, paddyfields were created as terraces going up hillsides. These filled with rain over winter, allowing rice to be planted. As summer progressed, the rice grew, and the wet terraces dried, allowing harvesting of rice on firm soil.

Conventional European sized tractors were unsuitable for narrow terraces, and the use of animals remained common. The garden cultivator MAY have originated out of the need for small engined machinery, suitable for terraced farming.

As a yottie, I know that the Japanese have always made good small diesel engines, insufficient in power (10-20bhp) to propel a car or van. It may have been their requirement for small diesel cultivator engines that drove this development. Is this true?

Jan 3, 2016 at 3:34 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Yes A 'Chuil bothy in the Knoydart , almost but not quite.

Dark commercial forestry is a pox.

Jan 3, 2016 at 3:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

A'Chuil bothy 1976 , before the forestry .

Glen Dessarry has been assaulted by this crass industrialization .

Also red deer survival increases dramatically when such forestry is present.
(Cover from the cold winter winds)
This subsequently increases grazing pressure in the cols and tops during the summer months.

Jan 3, 2016 at 3:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

Phillip Bratby, I believe one of the advantages of sowing winter wheat and barley was that it reduced winter soil erosion, to have something growing, rather than leaving the soil bare. It also has the advantage of being another job that can be done after harvesting in a dryish spell rather than hoping for a convenient dryish spell in spring.

At school in the 70s, I was taught the importance of ploughing along the contours of land, rather than up and down slopes, to prevent soil erosion, and loss of nutrients.

As a farmhand, I almost rolled a tractor driving along the South Downs contours, when the heavily laden and high centre of gravity trailer side slipped, and flipped the tractor onto 2 wheels. The slope was not even 20 degrees. As tractors have got bigger, their centre of gravity must have got higher, along with their propensity to roll. I do not know whether this has altered farming techniques on hillsides, but roll cages are incorporated into tractor cabs to save lives.

Jan 3, 2016 at 3:59 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Given the scale of the flooding and the likely cost of the damage it might be an idea to have a more rational approach to understanding what happened, and what can be done. The knee-jerk reactions from Liz Truss (and unfortunately, Rory Stewart - I'd thought he might be a bit more rational) claiming "climate change" scarcely one day after the first flooding were a bit depressing.

Also depressing is todays' ST reprise of incompetence and salaries of the idiots in the EA. They don't fill you with confidence that our response will be well informed and rational.

If there's a shopping list of what we need now I'd open the list with
a quantitative review of dredging activity in the flooded river plains over the last 20 years.
a review of all rainfall records for the same flood plains, including those reported by amateur weather stations (yes, they may be less accurate, but at least they won't be contaminated by MET Office 'adjustments').

I'd want the dredging review to be conducted by a hydrology engineer, external to EA and preferably not a UK citizen. Canada would be good. Lord Oxburgh need not apply.

Jan 3, 2016 at 4:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

Capell, damming rivers in the UK has been to make them navigable (canals) water supplies (Elan Valley Wales) or Hydro Electric Power. All three uses require maximum winter capacity to ensure summer delivery. Full dams make people happy. Deliberately emptying dams, to provide the capacity to absorb very high rainfalls, is not part of the mindset. With all the money spent on climate research, better forecasting should make this possible.

Having said that, this flooding was not due to dam or reservoir mismanagement. A gallon of rainwater, does not fit in a pint mug. A gallon of beer will fit into a pint mug, if it is emptied quicker than it fills. Some Engineers can demonstrate this quite well.

Jan 3, 2016 at 4:31 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

With Green's their imagination* trumps reality.

So to Lean what he imagines beats the farmer's experience of it.

(* by that I mean their dream or nightmare scenario)

Jan 3, 2016 at 4:35 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

I would advise anyone living in a flood risk area to ask the questions "What is the local drainage/flood plan?", and "where are the relevant design documents that show how it was arrived at?". In anticipation of official blank stares and waffle I would seek to maximise the embarrassment of the officialdom.

Jan 3, 2016 at 4:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikky

flaxdoctor on Jan 3, 2016 at 2:55 PM

The bare land around my tree is only a few feet wide, enough for water to enter the ground. The tree is in the garden, surrounded by a lawn, with fences and hedges on the perimeter of the property. It isn't in the middle of a field of bare earth. The advice was in response to a question; why are we not getting fruit on our fruit tree. Grassing up to the trunk was not advised as the lawn would take most of the rain itself. It was acting as an (semi-)impermeable layer.

The information given in the TV programme didn't advocate bare land for 'improving' water absorbance. It was wondering why, when trees help drainage and reduce peak surface water flow which floods the Welsh Valleys, they were being uprooted on the uplands, encouraged by EU grants. They said that the roots offer a pathway for water to reach well below the surface, where it can percolate, at a much slower speed. A lot of rain falling on lush pasture, especially on a slope, wouldn't have time to sink in through the grass. By placing trees along the lower edge of a field, the water could be helped into the ground. The water would have to get past the holes made by the roots before it could descend on the surface towards the river below, at a much quicker pace.

Jan 3, 2016 at 4:55 PM | Registered CommenterRobert Christopher

Capell on Jan 3, 2016 at 4:09 PM
"I'd want the dredging review to be conducted by a hydrology engineer ..."

They would have to be free from the Climate Change agenda to have any credibility.

Jan 3, 2016 at 5:01 PM | Registered CommenterRobert Christopher

Hideously funny and pertinent letter in Sunday Torygraph:-

SIR – I am intrigued by the claim that Britain has witnessed “unprecedented flooding events” in Cumbria and York in recent weeks.
I can recall similar events in the Trent valley in 1954 and 1947 (where 9,000 properties were affected). We must also remember the floods in 1875, 1852, 1824 and in 1795 where the greatest flood ever to hit the area was recorded. Then there was 1683, then 1403 and, of course, 1309. And 1141.
It would seem that climate change has been happening for longer than many would have us believe.
Dennis Nyer
Bridport, Dorset

Jan 3, 2016 at 5:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Constable

Robert Christopher,

In commercial apple production a narrow strip (0.6m or so) is kept clear at tree bases, but this is for weed control. The remainder of orchards is generally grassed. I can't see much/any benefit in clearing ground to help water ingress to make your tree set fruit - you also say 'tree' - could pollination be the issue?

Also I'm not aware of grants for removing trees from uplands (is this harvesting commercial forestry?) - I'm no fan of the EU, but this doesn't seem to ring true even for these halfwits - do you know any more?

Jan 3, 2016 at 5:31 PM | Registered Commenterflaxdoctor

I do not know the motives of those fervently opposed to dredging rivers (etc), other than the environmentalist propaganda about CAGW and "re-wilding" . Whilst dredging is not the entire answer by a long way, failing to dredge sensibly and properly, as we used to do, clearly restricts the ability of rivers to speedily disperse exceptional rainfall to the sea.

England (not the UK) has the highest population density of any European country (barring tiddlers), which means we have a huge built environment. Two things follow: floods cause most damage in built up areas; and those built areas transfer most of the rain that falls on them into the surface water drainage system and thence into the rivers too quickly. More building means more water direct into rivers. Moreover farmland, however compacted, absorbs water much better than concrete.

There are over 8 million non-British immigrants here now - that is a lot of extra concrete to provide the necessary infrastructure. We cannot keep piecemeal building all over the country, even without substantial migrant numbers, and yet still expect the same old rivers to carry away rain swept into them in increasing volumes from new building. Given the population growth encouraged by government, widespread flooding becomes a failure to provide, and manage, the necessary extra water infrastructure by the EA, the UK government and the EU.

Jan 3, 2016 at 5:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterBudgie

Robert Christopher,

I agree with flaxdoctor; the bare area around the base of fruit trees is primarily for weed (and if you use a suitable mulch, pest) control. It also allows you to feed your tree(s) without feeding the grass and weeds. If you're have problems with fruit setting, try raking potash into the bare soil in late winter and after flowering.

Jan 3, 2016 at 7:02 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

golf Charlie

My suggestions were the method I'd use to assess the impact (if any) of the EU directive to let our rivers regain their normal floodplain, which I think was enacted in 2000 and has largely gone unnoticed (except by EA). If there is such a directive in place and is being enacted by the EA, then perhaps that's another factor to pour into the EU referendum debate.

Dredging rivers has two effects:
it increases the size of the linear reservoir for flood waters, and
improves drainage flow.
Several people (friends) in the area report easily noticeable silting and gravel bed enlargement in rivers such as the Eden and the Kent. This could well be one of the reasons the flooding has been so bad. Until I hear to the contrary, I'm, going to assume that the EU rivers directive does apply in the case of the recent flooding.

There's a cry to improve flood defences, but we've reached the point where we're now barricading our rivers from normal people-access with a loss of public amenity. This could echo our green-blob-driven dash to cut emissions by ineffective renewables instead of replacing coal generation with gas . We'll pour more and more money into hideous flood defences instead of simply dredging rivers. And like renewable generation, that won't work. I think the public needs to be made aware of the situation and then we can have a nice, Corbynesque debate about the matter - and perhaps sack a few wastrel EA (come to our Barbados villa) directors in the process.

Jan 3, 2016 at 7:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

@flaxdoctor, Jan 3, 2016 at 5:31 PM

Also I'm not aware of grants for removing trees from uplands (is this harvesting commercial forestry?) - I'm no fan of the EU, but this doesn't seem to ring true even for these halfwits - do you know any more?

Answer is below. A reasonable article by Monbiot until he reverts to Moonbat persona relating to dredging.

The heaviest rain falls in the hills, and what happens there is a crucial determinant of the impacts downstream.

Rational policies would seek to ensure that water hitting the hills is held there for as long as possible before it begins its downhill journey. And this, above all, means having trees and other deep vegetation.

A study in mid-Wales discovered that where trees are allowed to grow on the hills, water is absorbed by the soil 67 times more efficiently than where they are absent.

Where sheep have grazed the vegetation closely and compacted the soil with their hooves, the land behaves almost like concrete: water flashes off immediately and begins its devastating rush downhill.

But it is not the farmers who are to blame: it is European rules which ensure that trees are more or less banned from our hills.

Farming in the uplands, where the soil is poor and the climate is harsh, is sustained by public money.

We like to believe that the sturdy shepherds we see on BBC1’s Countryfile are making their living from selling sheep, but the sheep lose money.

Most hill farmers would go out of business were it not for European farm subsidies.

And the rules attached to these subsidies forbid them from changing the way they manage their land.

To claim your money, you don’t need to produce a single lamb chop. You merely need to ensure that your land is in ‘agricultural condition’ – and this means bare.

Farm subsidies are paid by the hectare: the more land you possess that is in ‘agricultural condition’, the more money you are given.

The Government publishes a list of what are called Permanent Ineligible Features (PIFs). Any land that harbours these features is disqualified from subsidies, so farmers have a powerful incentive to erase them.

Among the PIFs are woods, dense scrub, bracken, ponds, wide hedges and ungrazed reed beds – a comprehensive catalogue of features that impede the flow of water downhill.

The PIF rule is one of the reasons why, above about 650ft, you will struggle to find trees almost anywhere in Britain. European regulations, in other words, prohibit both wildlife habitat and flood prevention.

In 2009, this approach was challenged by the Government body Natural England.

It published a report called Vital Uplands, which proposed allowing deep vegetation to return to the hills to reduce ‘the risk of downstream flooding’.

It noted ‘intensive grazing can cause soil erosion and compaction, and prevent regeneration of scrub and trees, thus speeding water run-off’.

After the report was published, a new chairman of Natural England was appointed. Poul Christensen publicly denounced the report and apologised for his agency’s thought crimes. Vital Uplands was pulped and deleted from official websites.

Source: The root of this flood crisis? A mad dash for EU cash, writes George Monbiot

Jan 3, 2016 at 7:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterPcar

Capell, 7:12, I entirely agree! The problem is that these schemes have been overseen by those with a Green Blob agenda. I don't know how it is prioritised, but the living accommodation of the lesser potted newt weevil, is higher priority than the electorate. All political parties are guilty, at District, County, and Westminster.

Jan 3, 2016 at 7:43 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie


Thanks for that.

My purpose in revealing Monbiot's agenda is that's what he's promoting. He doesn't care whether the towns or homes of the great unwashed are flooded, this is nothing more than opportunism (to promote his deep green manifesto). It's not the only time he has ever been right.

Jan 3, 2016 at 8:04 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Re Mikky Jan 3, 2016 at 4:44 PM

"I would advise anyone living in a flood risk area to ask the questions "What is the local drainage/flood plan?", and "where are the relevant design documents that show how it was arrived at?". In anticipation of official blank stares and waffle I would seek to maximise the embarrassment of the officialdom."

The suggestion in the following quote is in this spirit ( from

"el gordo
January 3, 2016 at 7:06 am · Reply

The warmist rank and file have been informed that they won in Paris, so no further discussion is needed. They are now moving the debate away from temperature to extreme weather, which they hope will have a bigger impact.

The problem for them is that two can play that game, no matter what weather is thrown at me I claim it as the beginning of global cooling. At first they laugh …."

So the almost 125 mm of rain that we finally got under must have been due to global cooling

Jan 3, 2016 at 8:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnother Ian

@Gareth, Jan 3, 2016 at 2:31 PM

Thanks for the link to Richard North's blogpost

Richard North highlights some important points which suggest the EA and Greenblob are to blame, not the EU

Specifically, European Water Framework Directive Article 31 states:
"In cases where a body of water is so affected by human activity or its natural condition is such that it may be unfeasible or unreasonably expensive to achieve good status, less stringent environmental objectives may [*] be set on the basis of appropriate, evident and transparent criteria, and all practicable steps should be taken to prevent any further deterioration of the status of waters.

There are stringent controls on dredging – with permits required before work can start – but there are also restrictions on carrying out routine maintenance in the form of channel de-silting. Under most circumstances, this requires Flood Defence Consent [**].

Once the work is carried out, as we see from government guidelines, the silt from normal watercourses may be deposited on the banks of the watercourse from which it is taken, or spread on adjoining agricultural land.

Article 16 of the Habitats Directive provides for derogations: "to prevent serious damage, in particular to crops, livestock, forests, fisheries and water and other types of property"

Although such a stance is unpopular with "green" interests, the reality of the situation is that the only way an EU directive can have a decisive effect on flood protection is if the local (i.e., national) authorities permit it. Effectively, our own government is the author of our grief, using EU law to promote a "green" agenda.

* Note the word may - it would suggest the EA greens decided not to allow any derogation
** One assumes the EA greens refuse to give consent
*** Again the EA makes the decision and "No" appears to be their answer as in previous two.

Jan 3, 2016 at 8:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterPcar

I recently applied for planning permission for a garage in the garden of my (only) house in Cornwall.

A condition of the consent was that the rain water draining off the roof of the proposed garage should not run straight into the public drain/sewer but a sink in my garden - the implication is that it should then gradually seep into the drain.

I am happy with this condition and think it is a good idea. The Council policy may make a trivial difference in my case but I think the idea behind it is sound and to be applauded.

High speed run off from Tarmaced front gardens can only make flooding worse - albeit by a small amount but the idea of arranging matters so that "run-off" can be held or delayed for a short time is sound.
Though this does not change my view that drains (i.e. rivers) should be cleared/dredged/desilted or "managed" to reduce the risk of "backing up".

We should be looking upstream to delay the flow and downstream to ensure that it goes like poo off a shovel.

The River Ouse is a classic requirement for "de-silting" (as the new politically acceptable term has it). It has to drain a lot of water from "High" Yorkshire across the lowlands of Yorkshire.

The junction between the high speed downward flow and the sluggish lowland flow is York.
Flooding since the Vikings settled.

Jan 3, 2016 at 8:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterNic

As an example of the debris of a river at flood levels I have uploaded a photo of the River Mersey 3 miles downstream of Stockport in February 2011. The river level has failed to reach anything like this level in the past month, yet Rochdale, which was flooded, is only about 20 miles North.

Jan 3, 2016 at 8:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin Marshall

Nic 8:43, I obviously do not know your house or area, but too many properties do have rainwater discharging into foul drains. During rain, sewage treatment works get overloaded, and the flow exceeds the ability of micro organisms to munch their way through the poo and pee. Partially treated sewage is then discharged into streams and rivers.

The condition on your Planning is fairly standard, but is actually there to protect sewers and sewage works, not to reduce flooding. Raw sewage gushing up from manholes due to rainwater surcharges is not fun for anyone.

Soakaways are very appropriate, but in clay soils, they tend not to soakaway. The South Downs are famous for being chalk, but large areas actually have a thick layer of clay above the chalk.

Jan 3, 2016 at 9:15 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

My take on dredging and now (thanks Mr R North" de-silting is based on this:

I live in the outskirts of a hilly city at the base of an East-West hill range which is the water catchment for the city's and surrounding County/Region's water supply.

There is a wood within walking distance on MOD land where we walk the dogs. There are several natural springs, burns/brooks and rivers flowing into this wood from the hills which merge to form one river. There is a clear vertically and horizontally eroded river bed on these where at many points they silt up and the flow meanders. No de-silting is performed and when heavy rains come the fast flowing high volume of water naturally de-silts the waterways. This works fine until the flood waters hit the point at the end of the woods where it enters man-made riverbanks/beds.

These are of a square profile ie ¦_¦ rather than natural U shape. When flow is low the right angles accumulate silt including stones, wood, rubbish and then most importantly vegetation which stabilises the silt. Much of the downstream is culverted then resurfaces in various places and in parks where it looks like a natural river. These are never de-silted and floods have occurred. Gov/Council response: spend >£80 Million on flood defenses by building walls alongside the river and creating huge underground balancing lakes.

This river is relatively short: 10 miles from end of wood/natural river to sea outfall. De-silting the man-made parts and clearing blockages from culvert entrances was all that was necessary to prevent flooding at a cost of a few thousand per year.

I conclude in this case and probably many others, once rivers enter man-made areas/watercourses dredging/de-silting is required.

Jan 3, 2016 at 9:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterPcar

Sunday times 12 DEC

"ALASDAIR BAXTER’S holiday home has never been flooded. But, last month, his insurer suddenly decided it was at “extreme risk” and raised the annual premium from £301 to £4,380 — an increase of more than 1,300%.

The 79-year-old retired law lecturer inherited the property in Glencoe in the Scottish Highlands, from his aunt in 1985. Despite being close to the coast and a river, he has always been able to get reasonably priced buildings and contents cover. He has switched regularly to keep down costs.

Yet last month Home Protect, which provides policies for Axa Insurance, wrote to Baxter warning that it had “recently introduced new flood information that predicts the risk of groundwater and flash-flooding alongside the more obvious risk of flooding due to the proximity of rivers or coastal areas”.

I am sure the insurance companies are socialising costs throughout the country .

Despite being at the terminus of some of the most fearsome spate stream catchment in the UK.......Glencoe does not get flooded......why.
Could it be its a touch wilder then the lake district ?
With birch scrub now covering the outflow of Coire Gabhail and other mountain spate streams.

Jan 3, 2016 at 9:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

@Capell, Jan 3, 2016 at 4:09 PM

The knee-jerk reactions from Liz Truss (and unfortunately, Rory Stewart - I'd thought he might be a bit more rational) claiming "climate change" scarcely one day after the first flooding were a bit depressing.

Glad you agree, I made the same point here:

Pcar, Jan 1, 2016 at 7:46 PM

I see Cameron and the whips have blackmailed/bribed Rory Stewart to support "Green crap" and blame the floods on Global Warming. I thought Rory had more backbone.

I wonder what secret the whips threatened to reveal? With Hague's about turn on the EU the blackmail secret is already known and accepted, I assume there is worse still hidden.

Jan 3, 2016 at 9:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterPcar

Coire Gabhail.

Can you imagine how much water flows down these bare hanging valleys in spate !!!!

These mountain corries should be deer fenced on a large scale or the deer shot en masse from helicopters.
Alternatively (and my favourite option) hunting deer for food should be democratized in the highlands as in France.
This of course will never be allowed to happen.

Perhaps culling the slower heavier hill walkers also.
Especially day trekkers , cull all day trekkers.
Leave the backpackers alone as they are still rare species .

Jan 3, 2016 at 9:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

Not the lake district.
Notice the birch scrub .

No subtitles provided.

Jan 3, 2016 at 10:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Dork of Cork

Well; the Dick of Cork seems to have lost the plot even more now. The only thing that's keeping Scotland and Eire off British and EU financial life-support is tourism, and now it wants to shoot the tourists.

Jan 3, 2016 at 10:25 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Pcar, the original Victorian brick sewers were egg shaped, but with the point of the egg down. This meant that even at low flow, they self cleaned. Modern construction encourages wide rectangular channels, for storm drains and flood relief channels. Debris builds up. There is no money to keep them clear. Even if they are clear of debris, heavy rain is the condition most likely to bring more debris in, whether leaves twigs, crisp packets, polythene bags, fallen branches etc, to add to the mattresses, burnt out cars, traffic cones and 3 wheeled shopping trolleys.

The various Govt, Local Govt Authorities etc, responsible for these drains do not normally pay for the damaged caused, when they fail. It is a bit of a grey area legally, if my memory is correct.

Jan 3, 2016 at 10:43 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Managing water is not a black art. It is well developed but expensive.

Allowing development in a floodplain is asking for trouble. Adding impermeable surfaces (buildings, paving etc.) and most forms of development increases runoff raising the load on spillways, sewers, streams, rivers, and dams.

New development must include a retention basin or other method for holding runoff and releasing it slowly into the stormwater system. The result is large lake-like areas that are alternately empty and brimming but they prevent downstream flooding.

Where I live (Suburban Midwest US) we pay an annual fee based on the number of square feet of impermeable surface (driveway, parking, patio, buildings etc.) on our land. The revenue is earmarked for maintenance and upgrades to stormwater related projects. We can reduce the fee by retaining rainwater and releasing it gradually.

Jan 3, 2016 at 11:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpeed

"Well; the D*** of C*** seems to have lost the plot even more now. The only thing that's keeping Scotland and Eire off British and EU financial life-support is tourism, and now it wants to shoot the tourists." --Salopian

I suspect The Prince of Dorkness was being a trifle jocular. I was able to understand every word of his Dorkness's amusing posts today, a rare achievement. Could it be the dry weather?

Jan 3, 2016 at 11:30 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

"A study in mid-Wales discovered that where trees are allowed to grow on the hills, water is absorbed by the soil 67 times more efficiently than where they are absent.

Where sheep have grazed the vegetation closely and compacted the soil with their hooves, the land behaves almost like concrete: water flashes off immediately and begins its devastating rush downhill."

I find the first claim so astonishing that I begin to doubt it immediately.

The second claim seems to me to run against common observation. I live in sheep-rearing country; we even keep four ewes ourselves. Their little hooves do not compact the land, they chew it up, admittedly far less than cows. Under intense sheep grazing they can convert the ground to a quagmire. Out on the hills, the same effects are commonly seen. And to forgive Rory Stewart his earlier blunders, he did have the pioneering approach (by EA standards) of getting out onto the Pennines and Lakeland Mountains to observe the fact that the hillsides were in fact saturated with water. Any extra water falling does then run off quickly to the rivers - the sponge has filled.

All of this is contained in standard hydrology text-books. You can quite accurately predict run-off rates in most cases. Elizabeth Shaw is good on this. Monbiot would do well to read some of her stuff.

Jan 3, 2016 at 11:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

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