CONCERNED farmers are demanding answers as they face a huge bill to stop acres of scenic marshes flooding and destroying their livelihoods.
After almost a year of consultations, the Environment Agency (EA) has announced they will stop maintaining ‘vital’ pumping stations on Ince and Frodsham Marshes in March 2015.
Now farmers are demanding to know who will take over the running of the pumps, fearing they will be landed with the £39,000 a year bill to build new pumps or face losing their livelihoods.
Farmers are already forking out to clear the channels. These are often blocked with stagnant water as water pours down from homes and industrial businesses – something they say will lead to ‘large scale’ flooding if no-one steps up to fund the running of the pumps.
Norman Boowe, who has farmed at Spring Farm in Frodsham for more than 40 years, said farmers wanted to set up a management board, but were being kept in the dark over who would take over and fund the ‘vital’ operation.
“If they are switched off it will be a disaster for the whole community,” said Farmer Boowe.
“At the moment people can enjoy walking their dogs along miles of footpaths and cycling with their children, but if new pumps are not installed the marsh would change into a stagnant, mosquito-infested wasteland.
"We would not be able to manage the land, resulting in at least £500,000 of food going down the drain.”
Mr Boowe said the farmers wanted to manage the water levels but would need the support of other parties using the marshes, such as the Pipe Line Agency, Highways, Quinn Glass, GrowHow and Peel.
“After all that Frodsham and Helsby has been through with the wind farm and incinerators, it is about time someone put their hands in their pockets and sorted this mess out.”
A spokesperson for the EA confirmed a decision had been made to stop maintenance on the pumps from March 31, 2015, and that talks were under way between all stakeholders.
“We are looking to host an initial round-table meeting with all parties so that together we can establish some common goals for partnership working that help us work towards identifying the most effective and financially sustainable model for the future management of the marshes,” he said.