9:00am Saturday 15th February 2014
By Sophie Scott
A FARMER told the Prime Minister yesterday the floods will hit incomes in the agriculture industry for the next two years.
David Cameron was given a tour of Cote Lodge Farm, near Bampton, yesterday afternoon where he met Tim Hook and saw the impact the past month’s rain has had in his Witney constituency.
The PM hoped there would be help for farmers in Oxfordshire affected by the flooding – and accepted criticisms not enough waterways had been dredged in recent years.
Standing in one of flooded fields as they were battered by wind and rain, Mr Hook told Mr Cameron damage to thousands of acres of crops in the county will take until at least the winter of 2015 to recover. And he confided he is facing a substantial loss to his business.
Mr Hook said the PM made no specific promises to him, but said he hoped he would consider some of the ideas he put forward.
Mr Cameron told the Oxford Mail farmers in the county could benefit from a £10m pot that was being put aside to help farmers across the UK.
Mr Cameron said: “First of all, we have got to get back to sensible use of dredging. The pendulum has swung too far against dredging in the late 1990s, but we will change that.
He said there had been some dredging, such as under the bridge on Bridge Street in Witney.
“Actually the reasons why Witney has not flooded nearly as bad as last time is that, this time, dredging was done under the bridge,” he said.
“So more dredging is part of the answer.
“We are also going to provide this £10m fund to provide farmers like Mr Hook, whose farm has been under water for week after week, and sadly year after year.
“The £10m is for farmers across the country and it is there to help farmers who have land under water and make the land good again when the water has receded. I think Oxfordshire will get help.
“Thames Valley has been one of the worst affected areas and farmers have had to put up with their land being covered in water week after week.”
Mr Cameron also said yesterday he may ask the European Union to pick up some of the bill to deal with the nation’s flooding problems.
He said there were drawbacks to the European Solidarity Fund, but promised to “look at it” after a cabinet row broke out over whether or not to ask for cash.
But Mr Hook said more needed to be done to dredge waterways.
He said: “He listened to our concerns and issues about how we are struggling and he seemed to get the point I was trying to get across. We just hope there will be action and he will carry through with our ideas.
“We need better management of the major watercourses – desilting, some dredging, culvert cleaning – which has been absent for 30 years.”
He added: “We expect flooding for about two to three weeks a year, but when it is standing for eight weeks and longer, it becomes very difficult for us.”
Farmers across Oxfordshire agreed with the sentiment.
Paul Caudwell, from Cross Trees Farm, in Sutton Courtenay, said he had met his MP Ed Vaizey to talk about how he has around 200 acres of flooded farmland.
“When you are growing arable crops like wheat, if it’s under water for more than 10 days it’s dead, that’s it,” he said. “We have probably lost around 180 acres of wheat and we are just going to have to take that hit.”
TROOPS HELP PUT UP FLOOD BARRIERS
WORK started last night on a 750m-long concrete wall in South Hinksey to hold back the water.
Eighty military personnel were deployed to South Hinksey from Dalton Barracks to help move the 2.5-tonne blocks into place along the southern side of the village.
Environment Agency staff are co-ordinating the operation from a temporary command centre in the village hall and work is expected to last until tomorrow.
Firefighters are also at the scene to pump water out of the village, over the metre-high wall, if necessary.
As a result of the operation, the Devil’s Backbone pathway will be closed and a brook will have to be dammed.
© Copyright 2001-2014 Newsquest Media Group