There was some misreporting on BBC Newsnight last night regarding our position on dredging in the Somerset Levels and Moors.  

For the record, this is our position.

The RSPB manages over 2,000 acres in the Somerset Levels.  With staff, volunteers and supporters living in the area, the RSPB have been closely involved in flood management for over thirty years.  

The damage and distress of the past month shows that a lasting solution needs to be found for the Levels.  

We welcome the Secretary of State’s call for an action plan to address extreme flooding on the Levels.  

The RSPB agrees with many on the Levels that there is a role for river dredging within this plan, but our experience and the Environment Agency studies suggest that dredging alone will not prevent flood damage after the next prolonged rainfall.  

Action will also be needed to make the floodplain less vulnerable to flood damage; defending homes and roads, adapting farm practices to occasional flooding, slowing floodwater upstream and spreading it into appropriate parts of the Levels once it arrives.

Over the next 48 hours I shall outline our view on the role of farming and the Common Agriculture Policy to help prevent flooding in the future.

  • Well said, Nightjar.  The nature of the combative political debate forces simplistic and narrow-minded responses.

  • Martin, This is clearer than it at first looks.

    It is the split which now defines environmental thinking in English politics at least.

    It isn't about whether or not to dredge it is about, on the one hand, whether we can continue to suppress nature with money and heavy engineering, on the other whether we bend, and develop new ideas around major problems which are not going to go away.

    Dredging is all the first option has and it won't work: the dr5edged rivers will be overtopped and instead of the 40 properties flooded this time, will we get New Orleans on the levels ?

    Some dredging will almost certainly be part of the second option, which by slowing and moving water around the landscape to a pre-prepared plan gives a good prospect of protecting most houses. What about the farmers ? Well, £4 million could go a long way in paying them to be part of the plan and store the water - not compensation, not subsidy but a straight payment for a crucial ecosystem service.

    For the second time in the last year Owen Paterson jumped the right way (modulation was the first) and has shown real leadership in telling it as it is, unpalatable though it may be to some people. Flooding is such a massive issue for thousands of people that he has done a major service and deserves congratulations. It is a great pity that twice now his leadership has been undermined by his leader's vote-grabbing politics.

  • As I  commented previously Martin, these issues require careful consideration and proper scientific evaluation, not knee jerk reactions. It is important to ensure the character of the Levels is kept as a wet low lying area where minor floods do occur but to avoid the wholesale flooding we have at present.

    In considering the applicable science professionally, as will be necessary in the coming weeks, I am afraid the media, (television and newspapers) have nothing to contribute, in fact they are, in most cases positively detrimental.