Austin Macauley 26 January 2016

Councils could face claims over pumped floodwater damage

Local authorities have been warned to prepare for claims from farmers affected by pumped floodwater after a council in Yorkshire lost a test case.

Farming business Robert Lindley Ltd took East Riding of Yorkshire Council to court over damage caused to crops after floodwater was pumped into a watercourse close to the farm. It led to additional flooding in the farmer’s field.

The local authority argued it was not liable and had been coordinating a response to flooding on behalf of several agencies. The pumping was carried out by the Environment Agency and local fire service to protect properties in a nearby village.

But court ruled the council had exercised statutory powers under s14A of the Land Drainage Act 1991 and the farmer was therefore entitled to compensation.

The case related to flooding that took place three years ago but the outcome is expected to result in further cases to come to be brought forward.

Ethan Desai, senior associate at law firm Furley Page said: ‘The decision in this “test case” means that similar claims made by other farmers as a result of crop losses allegedly caused by the pumping of flood waters are likely to proceed, with greater certainty as to the merits of their claims and who is liable for those claims.

‘At a political level, the debate continues as to the best methods of managing flood risk and the role that farmers could or should play in delivering those strategies. The Government has stated that it will consider a plan to pay farmers in England for allowing their land to be flooded.

'Environment minister Liz Truss has also announced a plan to allow farmers to clear ditches without needing to ask for permission first. It will be interesting to see how flooding legislation develops in the coming months.’

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