The post is titled Independent Bodies Can Cause Worse Problems Than Elected Ministers. The post starts of talking generally about loss of democracy caused by quangos and EU, then goes on to talk specifically about EA.
Now we see a similar problem with the Environment Agency. It turns out that it has been following a policy of allowing flooding to occur in parts of the country where elected politicians wish there to be a policy of managing and controlling the water. Recent Ministerial intervention is seeking to secure the change of policy many members of the public want. Far from taking politics out of water management, the Environment Agency seems to have put them in with a ferocity we rarely see about this topic.
The Environment Agency should have more technical expertise than Ministers on how to manage water and the environment. Ministers are still needed to tell them what the priorities are, and how big the budget is. Allowing them to be independent for too long has produced an Agency following priorities that are not the priorities of all those with drowned homes, roads, schools and farms.
My comment, which hasn’t yet been approved, was
Focusing on EA misses the real story. EA is simply following targets set by DEFRA to create wetlands. The guidance for the policy came from Natural England, EU and ultimately pressure groups such as RSPB.
For whatever reason the idea “hard sea defences don’t work and should be replaced with wetlands”, took hold in UK academia and government and spread around the world like some kind of malign virus. So now it is not a surprise this is what people think as it is what they are taught at school and university.
In addition there are people coming into quangos from pressure groups such as RPSB, and being allowed to set policy.
David Collins (elmtwo.com/curriculum-vitae) is just one example of how this happened, starting at RSPB he moved to DEFRA writing key policy (Making Space for Water). Then on to EA to test policy and finally as a subcontractor implementing policy.
Around 1973 there was a plan to build airport on Maplin sands near Southend. The airport was never built but much of coast was surveyed as preparation. In 1988 after another aerial survey, Fiona Burd compared photographs and declared saltmarsh was being lost. In 1998 another survey and rate of saltmarsh loss had doubled. SOMETHING HAD TO BE DONE.
Defra set EA a target of recreating 100ha/year by flooding farmland.
Since then both EA and NE have independently conducted saltmarsh surveys and found either saltmarsh is growing back or the rate of loss has slowed to about zero. EA noted something should be done about DEFRA target but as far as I know nothing has happened yet. It seems most likely the early surveys were just inaccurate.
EA staff on ground just get on with their jobs doing what they’re told. It seems the senior layer are just their to defend EA policy by whatever means necessary. What other purpose is their for having ex politico like Chris Smith as chairman? I doubt it’s for his environmental knowledge.
The story of North Mill Avoncliff is an example of of how EA operate in microcosm, defending their indefensible position to bitter end regardless of cost or facts, leaving the tax payer to foot the bill.
In summary you need to question DEFRA about targets which have been set for EA.
I don’t know for certain but I suspect the guys North Mill Avoncliff were instrumental in Henry from insidetheenvironmentagency.co.uk going public.
If you’re going to have a look at insidetheenvironmentagency.co.uk make sure you look at these posts
The important thing is not just to bash EA but to get the policy changed and EA don’t set policy.