Farmers and conservationists row over flood defences

Lyth Valley was one of Lonely Planet's top 100 views in the world. Credit: ITV Border

Pumps to defend farms in the Lyth Valley against flooding will be turned off in 6 months if the community can't find a way to run them themselves.

The Environment Agency says it can't maintain the pumps anymore, but the plans are controversial.

Conservationists argue the area has lost its wildlife since the draining began.

The Lyth Valley in south Cumbria. Credit: ITV Border

Two years ago the Lonely Planet made the Lyth Valley one of it's top 100 views in the world. The landscape has been shaped by farming and is famed for its damsons.

But those views look like they do because of four drains in the valley, which stop the lowland from Whitbarrow Scar to Scout Scar from flooding.

Those pumps are maintained by the Environment Agency but it says it needs to protect people and homes rather than spending money defending fields.

The pumps will be turned off if the local community can't run them.

Whitbarrow Scar Credit: ITV Border

Farmers in the area are trying to work together on a proposal to create an independent drainage board so they can run the pumps.

It would be paid for with a levy on council tax for residents in the local area. 70% of this would come from farmers, while the remaining 30% would come from the other houses in the flood risk zone.

There are around 100 such schemes in the country, but this would be the first new one for 30 years.

JIM BLAND, Lyth Valley Farmer Credit: ITV Border

But their efforts are not supported by conservationists. The RSPB says the valley should return to wetland so wading birds come back.

Some local residents are angry that it would be paid for by a levy on their council tax.

They have until next summer before the pumps are turned off.