A farming company based in East Yorkshire has successfully claimed compensation from a council acting as lead local flood authority pursuant to flooding of a field owned and farmed by the company.
Between December 2012 and March 2013, the village of Burton Fleming in East Yorkshire suffered severe flooding. As a result, the local council, being the East Riding of Yorkshire Council, requested assistance from the Environment Agency with a view to pumping water away from the village.
Water was pumped into a nearby watercourse known as the Gypsey Race, causing it to burst its banks. This resulted in additional flooding of a field owned by a local farming company, Robert Lindley Limited. The company subsequently brought a claim for compensation against the council under section 14 and 14A of the Land Drainage Act 1991.
Pursuant to section 14(5) of the Land Drainage Act 1991, where “injury” is sustained by a person as a result of the exercise by a drainage board or local authority of their powers, compensation is payable to the injured person by the board or authority.
In order for a claimant to show that it has suffered an “injury”, it must prove that the act complained of is one that would have been actionable but for the authorisation by the statute.
The Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) dismissed the council’s argument that the Environment Agency had been responsible for the pumping and considered that the Environment Agency had merely assisted the council in the exercise of the council’s flood risk management functions. The council was therefore deemed to have had ultimate responsibility for the actions taken.
The tribunal held that the exercise of the council’s powers under section 14A of the Land Drainage Act 1991 caused the injury suffered by Robert Lindley Limited and that, but for the council’s statutory powers, a claim could have been brought for nuisance and/or trespass. The tribunal therefore concluded that the company was entitled to compensation.
It should be noted that, although the sums involved in the case were modest, the principles addressed by the tribunal are likely to have a significant impact on the numerous other claims of this nature made by farmers.
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