A recent case before the Land Tribunal (Robert Lindley Ltd v East Riding of Yorkshire Council [2016] (11 January 2016) dealt with this question.

On Christmas Eve 2012, serious flooding occurred when a watercourse running through Burton Fleming in Yorkshire over-topped. 

It was agreed between the parties that the damage to the crop occurred sometime between 28th December and 31st December 2012. The parties disagreed over who was liable to compensate the farmer.

From 24th December 2012 the Environment Agency provided pumps in order to protect the village, flood water was pumped onto a nearby field as a part of a multi-agency response involving the East Riding Council, the Environment Agency (EA), and the Fire Service. The field was farmed by the claimant and as a consequence of the redirection of flood water a portion of the claimant’s carrot crop was destroyed.

On 2nd January the Council took over supervision of the pumps supplied by the Environment Agency.

The Council argued that until 2nd January responsibility lay with the Environment Agency or the local fire authority. The farmer argued that the Council was the lead local flood authority and as such other agencies were just assisting, therefore the Council was liable for the entire duration of the flood and liable during the time period when the crop was damaged.

The Tribunal decided that the Council was liable. The Council was the lead local flood authority and as such anything done by the Environment Agency or other agencies was done on its behalf.

The case underlines the importance of examining in detail the precise basis upon which any person or body is claimed to be liable for flood damage. In this case, there was a statutory provision entitling the claimant to compensation. It is perhaps unsurprising that occupiers of land sacrificed for the greater good in this way should be fairly compensated.