After tweeting about submitting an application for Flood Defence Consent (FDC) from the Environment Agency (EA), I had a couple of people email me asking what it is and why it is needed. If you want to do any work (whether habitat enhancement or not) on a main river, flood or sea defence or make any changes to a structure that helps control floods (such as a weir), you must apply to the Environment Agency for consent prior to undertaking any such works. It can be downloaded and filled in from the Environment Agency website. I thought I’d broaden my response to cover a bit of how I plan work as well.
I generally use an excuse to stretch my legs (and perhaps walk the hound) as the first step to planning any work in the river channel. Photographs never really work for me in terms of seeing what work I could implement somewhere I have never seen, so I like to get out and take lots of photos, especially on my own place. This is particularly true, if as I have done on the estate, you are planning on using site-won materials in the habitat enhancements, as you don’t truly know what there is to win until you’ve had a good look around. Taking a notebook and a few maps along also makes life a lot easier (at least for me), when I transform my scribbles and short hand notes into something much more decipherable on the computer at a later date!
The EA suggest it takes up to 8 weeks to approve these applications, which means I use that two month period to draw up all the other arrangements – plant, materials, equipment, tools and other necessary items and plans (and other consents or permissions). I have never and will never use any ‘agents’ who allegedly specialise in completing and gaining FDC permissions due to horror stories heard from other people of extortionate fees charged by these so-called ‘agents’ and FDC being unforthcoming! I have no need to use such ‘agents’ anyway – so if any are reading this, please don’t contact me!
In fairness, much as I have an intense dislike of filling in forms, the FDC isn’t a particularly onerous form to fill in when compared to some (such as anything that the now defunct MAFF used to plague me with!). It essentially just asks what work you wish to carry out, why you wish to carry out the work, who will carry out the work and how the work will be carried out. It downloads as an editable PDF document, which makes life a lot easier. If you do what I do, which is fill in your details in the first section, then save it on your computer before carrying on, it helps. This means you can open it up every time you need to apply for a new FDC and the first section is already completed. I also have several generic method statements for installing and securing woody debris, introducing gravel, bank repairs and channel narrowing which come in handy.
It’s a good idea to get in contact with the local Environment Agency Fisheries / Biodiversity team before you decide to do any habitat enhancements in a river channel – they are usually very happy to get out of the office for a while and come and have a site visit. There may also be some way in which they can help with habitat enhancements, but that seems to vary depending on which area you happen to be in.
I’ve had quite a bit of practice at filling in the FDC application both for myself and for other landowners / individuals I have undertaken work for, and I always send it more information than I think the EA will require to make a decision. They do occasionally come back and ask for further information on a few points, but I’ve never had any serious issues, and the FDC is normally approved and sent out by email in time for the work!
What I do tend to do is create some ‘Notice of Intended Work’ signs to put up anywhere the public have access to (such as a footpath across the estate), just to make life easier and prevent silly questions along the lines of ‘Why are you dredging the river?’ – which has happened!
Hope this helps and all the best,