The Lyth Valley

Tagged with: Casework status: Open Casework type: Water Site designations: Ramsar site Site designations: SAC Site designations: SPA Site designations: SSSI
Redshank, Tringa totanus Brownsea Island Dorset Wildlife Trust reserve. Dorset, England


The Environment Agency's decision to turn off some of the pumps in the Lyth Valley could provide real opportunities for enhancing wetland habitat restoration.

The Environment Agency's decision to reduce pump drainage in the Lyth Valley could offer great opportunities for threatened wildlife, with no increased flood risk to homes and still support profitable farming. However, a plan to take over the pump drainage operation, partly funded by residents throughout South Lakeland, could miss the opportunity and mean further declines in local wetland wildlife. 


Why is it worth fighting for?

For generations the Lyth Valley in South Cumbria has provided a home to a rich variety of wildlife including birds such as lapwings and curlews, as well as an abundance of wildflowers and insects. 

However, since the introduction of the pumping stations in the 1980's, wetland wildlife in the Lyth Valley has declined drastically. For example, redshanks no longer breed in the north of the valley and the number of curlews has more than halved.

We want to see a Lyth Valley richer in wildlife, which benefits and is cherished by local people and visitors to the area. We want restored raised bogs with their rich mixture of plants and dragonflies and meadows alive with calls of wading birds like lapwings, curlews and redshanks and restored reed-lined rivers with healthy fish populations.

These changes could all be made without increasing the flood risk to a single home.

How you can help

The new consultation is due to open in 2017 and we will be publishing details of how you can engage with this in due course. We encourage all South Lakeland residents to respond to the consultation. You would be funding the proposed Internal Drainage Board so it is important that you are given the opportunity to comment.

Wet meadows in flower, West Sedgemoor RSPB reserve, Somerset Levels, England

Our position

We believe there is a future for the Lyth Valley which doesn't rely on intensive pump drainage, one which could see profitable farming with vibrant communities benefiting from increased tourism revenue alongside thriving wildlife. We are concerned that proposals put forward in 2015 to create a new Internal Drainage Board failed to explore that option, instead looking to maintain the status quo by simply shifting the cost of operating the pumps from the Environment Agency to local landowners and taxpayers in South Lakeland.

There is a new consultation on the future of the valley planned for 2017 and we believe it's essential those who will be asked to pay are provided with all of the information they need to participate.

We have five asks of those who will be running the consultation which we believe will ensure people's views are properly taken into account and decisions made in the best long-term interests of the valley, its wildlife and the people who live in and around it.

  1. The consultation is actively promoted to all those who will be asked to pay. The last consultation revealed South Lakeland District Council would be asked to pay £46,164 every year to run the Water Level Management Board and that sum could increase in future so it is important that all of the residents in South Lakeland are encouraged to have their say.
  2. Information on who will benefit from the Board’s activities and how they will benefit is clearly presented. The Internal Drainage District boundary illustrates who is expected to benefit and how the running costs of the board will be distributed. It is essential that the justification for the boundary is clearly set out in the consultation.
  3. The impact the reduction in pump drainage would have on flood risk to people and property is explicitly set out. If the board did not take on the operation of the pumps then all but one would be decommissioned. The last consultation failed to clearly set out what impact this would have on people’s flood risk.
  4. The consultation presents a choice so that people can see what a pumped and a gravity drained system would look like. The last consultation only set out an option that saw the ongoing operation of all of the pumps. The Cost Benefit Analysis in the new consultation needs to assess alternatives.
  5. All options need to set out how wildlife will benefit from the activity of the Board and how it will be held to account for delivery. The Environment Agency and National Farmers Union have agreed to develop a Biodiversity Action Plan to set out how wildlife across the Internal Drainage District, not just on the protected sites, would be safeguarded and benefit from the board’s activity. However, this plan will have no legal standing so the consultation will not only have to set out an ambitious plan but also provide evidence of support from the wider farming community and explain how the board will be held to account for its delivery.


  • June 2016
    EA publishes the Cumbria Flood Action Plan – Reducing flood risk from source to sea, WLMB’s feature as one of the five main themes and are described as - locally run, public bodies which manage areas of special drainage need. They manage water levels for the benefit of the local economy, environment and the community – no suggestion from EA that they have a role to play in flood prevention. Despite this EA’s action reads - 'We continue to develop proposals and consult on the setting up of new Water Level Management Boards in the Lyth Valley (and Waver Wampool)'.
  • May 2016
    EA announces a further extension to the end of June 2019 to reflect the continued support of the farming community in establishing an IDB – to be known as a Water Level Management Board. The extension will allow evidence to be gathered a disseminated and a full consultation carried out – this is scheduled for spring 2017.
  • December 2015
    Lyth Valley Floods to previously unseen levels as a result of the failure of the flood bank on the River Kent and the high levels of rainfall - this event is repeated across much of Cumbria and leads to the creation of the Cumbria Floods Partnership. The pumps are shown to be totally ineffective at preventing flooding, one is submerged and fails, 14 mobile pumps are brought in to drain the valley; EA’s work on the IDB slows as staff deal with flooding.
    The RSPB and other NGOs including Friends of the Lake District, Cumbria Wildlife Trust and The National Trust are actively working with Natural England and the Environment Agency to achieve a landscape which retains the character of the existing but which is of great significance for biodiversity and valued as such.
  • October 2015
    The Environment Agency announces a six-month extension to the 31 December deadline for withdrawal from the pumped drainage to enable the financial estimates used in the business case to be recalculated based on data which complies with the Land Drainage Act 1991. The extension will also allow them more time to review the consultation responses, assess whether changes to the proposals are required, and allow for further more limited consultation to take place on the revised proposals. South Lakeland District Council is therefore delaying their decision on the proposals until this work has taken place.
  • September 2015
    The NFU reviews the ballot papers received from agricultural land occupiers/landowners covering the agricultural land within the drainage district. More than 75 per cent of from agricultural land occupiers/landowners who voted supported the proposed IDB.
  • July 2015
    The NFU and EA publish the Lyth Valley and Witherslack Water Level Management Boards’ Justification Statement and Biodiversity Audit and begin a two-month period of public consultation. This consultation is limited to those who live within the area over which the IDB will operate, excluding others who would be required to pay. The farming community is consulted through two meetings and overwhelmingly support the formation of an IDB, this is the only consultation required and therefore unless the local authority South Lakeland District Council does not support the proposals they will go forward for Secretary of State Approval.
    The EA and NFU announce the Witherslack extension, added solely to help make the financial case stack-up in favour of an IDB (to be known as the Lyth Valley and Witherslack Water Level Management Board). We have seen no evidence yet to show how residents in the Witherslack extension would benefit from the proposed IDB.
  • February 2015
    Sciencewise lead the well attended final consultation with members of the local community shaping the final version of the draft vision for a wildlife friendly valley. A report on the consultation can be obtained through the government website.
  • January 2015
    Sciencewise lead a very successful consultation on the vision with local land owners and occupiers who are largely supportive of improvements for biodiversity alongside farming in the valley.
  • October 2014
    Sciencewise are contracted as part of the Morecambe Bay Nature Improvement Area to engage conservation stakeholders in discussion on the draft vision – what the valley will look like in 2035.
  • August 2014
    The NFU on behalf of their members and local land owners have been working with the EA to enable the farming community within the Lyth Valley to make progress on the development of an IBD. This work funded by EA meant that NFU could employ a Farming Liaison Officer Project Manager whose role was to develop the Justification Statement (business case) to form the new IDB.
  • June 2014
    RSPB and partners begin discussions which will lead to the development of a draft vision for the Lyth Valley
  • January 2014
    The NFU and CLA led on consultations with the landowners to establish local support in principle to investigating the development of the Lyth Valley IDB. The landowners voted yes at a meeting on the 3 January 2014.
  • November 2013
    The Environment Agency notified landowners of their formal intent to withdraw from funding the land drainage pumping stations in December 2015. The options going forward were outlined as withdraw from operating the pumping stations or ‘handover’ the pumping stations to community led IDB’s.
  • March 2013
    The Environment Agency publishes the Lyth Valley Watercourse and Pumping Management Plan Draft version 1 as the pumps have not been turned off.
  • January 2013
    The Environment Agency is scheduled to turn off the drainage pumps in the Lyth Valley
  • November 2011
    The Environment Agency launch a public consultation on creation of Internal Drainage Board, 65 per cent of respondents are against the formation of an IDB on the grounds of lack of public benefit and biodiversity losses.
  • May 2010
    The Environment Agency announces that they plan to reduce their support for pump drainage in the Lyth Valley.
  • March 2010
    A group of local landowners form the Lyth and Winster land Drainage group
  • 1980's
    Pumping stations installed in the Lyth Valley