THE GOVERNMENT has released £720,000 for groups of farmers and other land management groups to create natural flood defences.

The money is being made available in areas hit by last winter’s floods, to those willing to work together on natural solutions.

Such projects have already been tried successfully upstream of Pickering, by the Slow the Flow organisation, made up of bodies including the Forestry Commission, Environment Agency and local councils.

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They work together to stem the flow of water reaching the town through solutions such as creating natural, “leaky” dams around Cropton Woods and planting trees on the Levisham estate on the North York Moors.

The money will be made available to forestry groups, farmers and other organisations who have land which flooded last year.

Applicants will be encouraged to plant trees, create water meadows and restore rivers to their natural meanders, along with other land management techniques to help slow the flow of waterways.

Farming Minister George Eustice said: “This new funding, alongside the £15m pledged for natural defences in the Autumn Statement, will help communities hit by last year’s flooding to better protect themselves against flooding and support habitats and wildlife.

“We are committed to better protecting the country from flooding and natural flood management plays an important role in our strategy – with many of the projects in our record £2.5bn on flood defence investment already using natural flood management measures.”

The application process will be run by Natural England, working with the Forestry Commission and Environment Agency. Applicants should discuss their proposals with Natural England before submitting a bid.

James Cross, chief executive of Natural England, said: “In many cases farmers and land owners hold the key to providing natural solutions to holding back floodwater and reducing future impacts to communities at risk.

“Working collaboratively with these groups at a catchment scale will offer greater benefits and I am delighted that we worked with Defra and other partners to secure this funding. We want to work with applicants to bring land managers together to find measures that reduce flooding make sense for farm businesses and improve the environment.”

The deadline to apply for funding is February 15.