Flooding appears increasingly prevalent with particular attention being focussed on householders and businesses whose properties are affected.
However, as the case of Robert Lindley Limited v East Riding of Yorkshire Council 2016 UKUT (LC) illustrates, flooding can have unanticipated consequences.
Burton Fleming is a village in the heart of the Yorkshire Wolds. The Gypsey Race is a stream running from west to east through this and neighbouring villages. From December 2012 and March 2013, the area experienced its worse flooding for 65 years. On New Year’s Eve 2012, the flood waters reached their height and the Gypsey Race burst its banks. This caused the flooding of several houses in the village and the sewage system failed.
The local authority, East Riding of Yorkshire Council, as the lead local flood authority in conjunction with the Environment Agency and the Fire Service decided to protect housing by pumping the flood water upstream. This resulted in the flooding of “Cottage Field “ a 30 acre field and part of a 670 acre family farm owned by Robert Lindley Limited. The company consisted of Robert and Sallyanne Lindley and their son, Edward. The flooding destroyed just under 3 acres of their crop. The farming company sought to recover its losses.
The Upper Tribunal decided that the farming company was entitled to be compensated by the council for its loss. This was on the basis that the council was found to be the lead local flooding authority. The council had argued that it was not liable to compensate the company as most of the pumping had been done by the Environment Agency and the Fire Service. However the Judge rejected this argument and ordered the Council to compensate the company under sections 14 and 14A of the Land Drainage Act 1991. The Act enables a person who suffers an “ injury” within the meaning of the Act to recover compensation under section 14A(11). As a result the council was ordered to pay £14500 in compensation. Both sides were ordered to make submissions to the tribunal on costs and a decision on this is still awaited.
The Judge did indicate that if the Council had instigated an investigation under section 19 of the Flood Water Management Act, there would have been less confusion as to what powers were being exercised. This section allows the council to make a determination as to which flood management authorities have responsibility for managing risk and whether they are proposing to exercise these.
The Judge also acknowledged that this was a test case with far reaching consequences. There are now likely to be a large number of similar claims from farmers who have suffered crop losses as a result of the pumping of flood waters.
For further information, our Rural Property Disputes Team will be happy to help, or click here to email Barbara Judkins.