Government-backed report calls for tree planting among flood measures

The importance of tree planting in upland Cumbria to alleviate future flood threats is acknowledged in a new Environment Agency report.

Image: Smabs Sputzer (CC BY 2.0)
Image: Smabs Sputzer (CC BY 2.0)

The Cumbria Flood Action Plan sets out short-term actions to better protect 4,300 homes in one of the regions worst affected by the devastating 2015-16 floods, as well as long-term actions to help communities develop better ways of managing rivers and the land.

It proposes several measures including "us[ing] uplands to slow the flow by planting trees, installing woody dams and restoring peatland".

In his introduction, forestry minister and local MP Rory Stewart writes: "By the time these plans are completed, we should be able to analyse all the ways in which you can control a flood - holding water back on the hills, through tree-planting and bogs, working closely with water companies (to use their reservoirs), and with farmers in their fields."

He adds: "We have already allocated up to £72 million to invest in flood defence across Cumbria."

Forestry industry body Confor has welcomed the report's recognition of the role of tree planting in tackling future flood risks, but called for more ambitious and detailed proposals to drive this forward.

Its England manager Jez Ralph said: "It is very encouraging to see tree planting becoming part of an integrated catchment level flood defence plan, which can also help hit governments tree planting targets, but the broader value of forestry to meet multiple objectives also needs to be recognised.

"The planting plans should be considered in upland and lowland areas and seen not just a contribution to flood defences. Tree planting also provides a valuable timber resource for future generations, bolsters the rural economy, delivers an attractive landscape and helps tackle climate change."

Confor chief executive Stuart Goodall added: "Rory Stewart is right to highlight tree planting as part of the long-term solution but if we are really serious about reducing long-term flood risk, we need greater ambition and to see more detail of how tree planting can make a difference in each river catchment as part of an integrated flood management system to serve future generations."

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