Undertaking regular maintenance of England’s main rivers would help improve flooding in rural areas, the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has said.

Recent storms have wreaked havoc across rural communities, damaging agricultural land and businesses as well as people’s homes.

The government, as part of its 2020 Budget, pledged £5.2 billion funding for flood risk reduction - earmarked specifically for new infrastructure.

But the CLA, which represents 28,000 rural businesses across England and Wales, estimates an extra £75 million per year is needed for maintenance of flood-risk assets to help stave off flooding.

The CLA said that 3.7 million acres of land in England and Wales are at risk from flooding.

CLA president Mark Bridgeman said:

"Many farmers and businesses have suffered catastrophic consequences of flooding from extreme weather events, and it could get worse.

In many rural areas the key issue is not a need for new infrastructure, but the fact that flood defences on main rivers are not being consistently maintained by the Environment Agency.

"This greatly increases the pressure on land managers who farm alongside main rivers, and those who manage flood risk further upstream – such as internal drainage boards."

'For flood risk management to be effective'

Bridgeman continued:

"For flood risk management to be effective, everyone must play their part, and currently the Environment Agency is vastly under resourced.

For this reason, the CLA is calling for extra funding specifically to help the Environment Agency uphold its statutory responsibility to mitigate flood risk.

"Right now, some farmland is used to store water to protect communities downstream from further flooding.

"This is saving potentially millions of pounds’ worth of damage to local homes and businesses, but in the vast majority of cases it’s done without compensation.

Whatever crop happens to be standing in those fields is lost.

"While acts like these help the community, it still leaves a big hole for many flood-hit businesses in the countryside which is why the government needs to come forward with this extra investment to help mitigate the risk of flooding altogether," he concluded.