The idea is to help landowners manage the risk of flooding and reduce the paperwork involved.
In recent years wet weather has caused significant flooding in areas such as the River Brue in Somerset. But while river maintenance can make floods less likely in some areas, current rules mean that farmers who want to manage their own watercourses could be put off by bureaucracy, environment secretary Owen Paterson believes.
Currently, landowners have to apply for permission from the Environment Agency before carrying out certain maintenance activities on rivers crossing their land. Under the new river maintenance pilots, farmers and landowners in seven areas in England at risk of flooding will be allowed to carry out work to de-silt watercourses without needing to obtain a consent.
The pilots will cover:
- Alt Crossens, Lancashire
- River Idle, Nottinghamshire
- Bottesford Beck, North Lincolnshire
- River Brue, Somerset
- Upper Thames, Oxfordshire
- Winestead Drain, East Riding of Yorkshire
- River Duckow, Shropshire
The River Maintenance Pilots will be overseen by the Environment Agency and will last for one year. Environment Agency staff will attempt to ensure that all activities take environmental concerns into consideration when maintenance work is carried out.