Local farmers, members of the public and other interested parties met at Mere Brow Village Hall on Monday 3rd April to hear an important update from the Environment Agency (EA) about its plans to withdraw funding for maintenance and for pumping in certain areas in the Alt Crossens catchment of West Lancashire and its ongoing work programme for maintenance in the area.

The Environment Agency is stopping land drainage activity including the operation of pumping stations in areas where evidence shows that it does not deliver sufficient flood risk benefit to people and property. The revised/extended notice period is now 31st December 2018.

Those in attendance heard from the National Farmersí Union (NFU) and Environment Agency staff about future plans for water level management and the latest extension to the withdrawal deadline. This latest extension followed a meeting in the Lyth Valley in South Cumbria in December with senior officials from the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) where it was accepted that it is necessary to amend the 1991 Land Drainage Act to allow the formation of a water level management board. A new advisory group will be formed to explore realistic options for water level management in the Alt Crossens and resolving this important legislative issue will allow for meaningful progress to be made.

Attendees were also informed about important lessons being learnt from other proposed Water Level Management Areas in Cumbria, in relation to work programmes and advisory group development, work that will ultimately benefit local councils, farmers and residents of the Alt Crossens.

At the end of the meeting the EA asked for farmer input in an exercise to inform its ongoing maintenance programme across the Alt Crossens.

There is widespread support amongst the farming community for the creation of a new Water Level Management Board in the Alt Crossens. The NFU and the Country Landowners Association (CLA) are keen to work constructively with a range of stakeholders including the EA, local authorities and other bodies to progress the development of a water level management solution that protects some of the best agricultural land in the north-west. The NFU regards it as essential that there is genuine recognition of the multitude of other benefits farmland provides for communities, infrastructure and wildlife.

The meeting at Mere Brow was an open meeting organised by the NFU.