In a recent case the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) in Robert Lindley Ltd v East Riding of Yorkshire Council  upheld a farmer’s claim for compensation from the council, as lead local flood authority, for crop losses caused by pumping floodwater away from the village of Burton Fleming further upstream.
Burton Fleming near Driffield suffered serious flooding between December 2012 and March 2013 from a watercourse known as the Gypsey Race, which flowed through the village. The East Riding of Yorkshire Council liaised with various agencies about the floods, including the Environment Agency. Water was pumped into the Gypsey Race, away from residential properties in the village.
Robert Lindley Limited was a family farming company that farmed land near the village. As a result of the pumping Gypsey Race breached its banks next to one of the company’s fields downstream from the village, part of that field suffered additional flooding and the company lost part of its carrot crop. The company brought a claim for compensation against the Council under the Land Drainage Act 1991.
The parties accepted that the carrot crop was damaged within 48 hours of being flooded, the most likely dates being between 28 and 31 December 2012 when the flood was at its height; they disagreed about liability. Before the hearing the parties agreed that the loss subject to liability was £14,500 exclusive of interest.
From 24 December 2012, the Fire Service and the EA provided pumps to pump the flood water away and from 2 January 2013 the Council took over the supervision of the pumps supplied by the EA. The Council argued that the pumping before 2 January 2013 was carried out by the Fire Service and the EA so they were not exercising its when the loss occurred.
However, the Tribunal disagreed with the Council and found that it was the Council that carried out the pumping works and the company was entitled to compensation from the Council. It also decided that the EA were simply co-operating with and giving assistance to the Council in the exercise of the Council’s flood risk management functions.
The Tribunal commented that: “We were told that this is in the nature of a test case in that there are a large number of other similar claims made by farmers as a result of crop losses allegedly caused by the pumping of flood waters. Thus, although the sums involved in this reference are now relatively modest the issues of principle involved will have a far reaching effect in respect of the other claims.”
Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.