Discontent is spreading throughout the Ryedale community, as farmers unite to challenge what they perceive as unjust and irresponsible treatment from the Yorkshire & Humber Drainage Board. The dispute centres around the Board’s refusal to provide essential support and services, leaving large portions of Ryedale at an increased risk of flooding.
This contentious issue stems from changes made following the merger of the Vale of Pickering Drainage Board into the Yorkshire & Humber Drainage Board several years ago. Under the Land Drainage Act 1991, landowners in Ryedale are required to pay a levy to the local drainage board. Historically, this levy has been crucial for maintaining the extensive network of ditches across Ryedale, safeguarding the region from flooding. However, since the merger, the Yorkshire & Humber Drainage Board has continued to collect levies but has allegedly failed to deliver the necessary support and services to the landowners.
The root of the issue lies in the differing interpretations of the purpose of the levy. The former Vale of Pickering Drainage Board viewed the levy as funding the regular maintenance of farm ditches, aligning with its statutory duty. In contrast, the Yorkshire & Humber Drainage Board, based in Newport near Hull, insists that landowners are now responsible for maintaining their drainage at their own expense, in addition to paying the levy. This policy shift has left farmers questioning the fairness of being charged for services that are seemingly not being provided.
Expressing their frustration, one local farmer highlighted the discrepancy, saying:
“How can the Drainage Board charge farmers for doing nothing? Our ditches have not been sprayed or flailed out for three years, and not had silt removed for ten years. They have crossed off the work and not even had the decency to inform us of this, yet still charge extortionate rates to us in exchange for doing precisely nothing – then threaten action against us for failing to maintain the ditches.”
A financial burden
For many farmers, the additional cost of undertaking drainage work themselves is a significant burden, especially at a time when finances are already stretched. This has raised concerns amongst the farming community about the value for money they are receiving from the Yorkshire & Humber Drainage Board and the potential consequences of insufficient drainage during the wet season.
While the Drainage Board has indicated that some ditches will be maintained, the lack of clarity on which ones leaves landowners in a state of uncertainty. There are fears that partial maintenance could lead to broader issues. The Drainage Board publishes a map, available here, but landowners claim to have received no confirmation regarding the maintenance status of specific ditches.
A call for support
In response to these challenges, Ryedale farmers are reaching out for support. They invite individuals who share similar concerns, whether they are landowners or residents of Ryedale, to contact them at [email protected]. The next course of action is yet to be determined, but Ryedale farmers are committed to keeping interested parties fully informed of any proposals.
The battle between Ryedale farmers and the Yorkshire & Humber Drainage Board highlights the delicate balance between the obligations of landowners and the responsibilities of drainage authorities. As the farming community rallies for fairness and transparency, the outcome of this dispute will undoubtedly have significant implications for both the agricultural landscape and the broader community in Ryedale.