Conservation and fishing organisations have condemned DEFRA’s pilot scheme to allow farmers and landowners to dredge rivers without permission from the Environment Agency (EA).

The pilot scheme, announced on 14 October, is designed to allow farmers to try to alleviate flooding rather than the EA managing the rivers. But the EA’s guide to dredging and flood risk states that dredging alone doesn’t make rivers big enough to contain huge volumes of water during a flood. In August, it published a report that found that dredging could “speed up flow and potentially increase the risk of flooding downstream”.

The Angling Trust said that dredging can cause “catastrophic damage to river ecology and it very rarely makes any significant difference whatsoever to flooding”.

Mark Lloyd, chief executive of the Angling Trust and Fish Legal, said: “The Angling Trust has gone on record stating its opposition to the plans on numerous occasions and calls on the Government to start listening to its own experts and halt these plans. River management is an immensely complicated and delicate operation that requires great care and expertise to avoid damage to vital habitats for fish and other aquatic wildlife.”