The flooding in the Somerset Levels has seen substantial attention directed at Lord Smith, aka Chris Smith, the Chairman of the Environment Agency (EA) and at Owen Paterson, Secretary of State at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
Smith has been in post since 2008 so he has a great deal to answer for as the EA’s plans have been put into effect. But nowhere near enough attention is being directed at Baroness Young, aka Barbara Scott Young, former Chief Executive on the EA between 2000-2008.
Baroness Young, as Chief Executive of the EA, long had concerns that creating wildlife habitats, particularly of the wetland variety, could be very expensive. With a biography that included former Chief Executive of the RSPB and former Chairman of English Nature, Vice President of Bird Life International, and President of the British Trust for Ornithology among others, wildlife habitats had long been something of a personal crusade. But she had come to understand that by far the cheapest way was simply to allow natural flooding, on tracts of land that had been drained and claimed for use by people and agriculture. She coined a strategy that summed up the approach:
Instant wildlife: just add water!
So proud was she of this brilliant idea, she even went around delivering speeches under that very title. She would have delivered one such speech to the Bedfordshire Natural History Society, but as you can see from the letter below, she was still recovering from an accident and had to be replaced by another EA specialist with something of a passion for wetlands and project manager of a range of initiatives on wetland/floodplain restoration in the Anglian Region, Dr Paul José.
In evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Union, the EU giving legal force to the wetland and river basin agenda Baroness Young was so enthusiastic about, she made clear the focus on the work in train, saying:
…the Water Framework Directive is a misnamed directive; it should be the “Land Framework Directive”, because it is mostly about what happens on the land.
Exactly so. Land like the Somerset Levels among other places. The levels had long since been drained and reclaimed and are now home to many farms in an area reliant on flood protection measures, including an array of pumping equipment to send any flood water back over the bank into the local rivers. But given Baroness Young’s preference for wildlife over humans, this is a state of affairs she could not bear. Perhaps this accounts for the often repeated quote attributed to Baroness Young (as yet I have not found the original source of it) where she said:
I’d like to see a limpet mine put on every pumping station.
Of course, when one is head of the Environment Agency, it is far easier to divert spending and resources away from essential flood protection – in line with those EU directives – and put huge sums into birdlife habitats. So it is in 2014 we see flooding in the Somerset Levels being far, far worse than it would have been if river dredging and proper flood protection measures had been maintained. In fact, it has spiralled way out of control and communities that would not have seen flood water are now actually under it. Baroness Young is squarely to blame for this because of an obsession with returning the area ‘to the wild’:
A significant element in the package of EU measures that have brought this about is the aforementioned Water Framework Directive. It is one of those pro-wildlife, anti-human pieces of ecologist-inspired lawmaking that bears much of the responsibility for what is happening to so many people right now. As such it is something that deserves substantial attention and scrutiny – if for no other reason than this that Baroness Young also said to the Lords Select Committee:
To be frank, however, if in 2015 we do a survey of the British public and there is even a minor proportion of them who can utter the words “Water Framework Directive”, I shall put a bullet through my head! It will have been the wrong thing to tell them. We want to tell them about outcomes, not about the processes.
Perhaps the flooded residents of Somerset would appreciate the chance to take just such a survey, give the appropriate answer that is so relevant to their current, manufactured plight, and then gather to see the architect of it, Baroness Young, honour her pledge. It would at least rid us of one more self important , power crazed parasites who do so much damage in pursuit of personal preferences.
By way of a final thought, Baroness Young has been involved in the Commission on Assisted Dying. In her biography page on the Commission’s website it is revealed that she has had an interest in Assisted Dying for 20 years. That is entirely believeable given her preference for wildlife over people. Perhaps one wag would argue that she has gone even further and has been actively trying to assist in a death – of farming commuities on the Somerset Levels by helping to flood them off the land.