§ Lord Melchett
asked Her Majesty's Government:
In respect of the Lowe Bure, Halvergate Fleet and Acle Marshes Internal Drainage Board's (IDB) application for grant-aid from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food towards the cost of the proposed Seven Mile/Berney Levels drainage scheme, whether they agree that:
- (i) An access road costing £200,000 is not reasonably required for the purpose of installing a new pump;
- (ii) The provision of this access road is not eligible for grant-aid from money voted by Parliament for land drainage purposes;
- (iii) The main benefit from the provision of this road at very substantial public expense will be to those landowners who subsequently drain their grazing marshes and convert them to arable cropping;
- (iv) No estimates have been made by the IDB of alternative and cheaper means of providing access to the pumping station; and
- (v) No estimates have been made by the IDB of the benefits that will accrue to individual landowners as a result of the proposed expenditure on this access road.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Earl Ferrers)
The answers to the questions by the noble Lord about the proposed Seven Mile/Berney Levels drainage scheme are as follows:
- (i) We are satisfied that an access road of a total length of 5.4 km is essential to allow for the construction and future maintenance of the new pumping stations at Seven Mile and Berney Levels; and that the estimated cost of £200,000 is not unreasonable for a road of this kind.
- (ii) Where expenditure on an access road is an integral and necessary part of a scheme for the improvement of drainage, it is eligible for grant-aid under the appropriate provisions of the Land Drainage Act.
- (iii) Because the road is essential to enable the pumps to be constructed and maintained, the main beneficiaries will be the drainage ratepayers in the whole of the area which will be drained by the new pumps; many of the farmers will also enjoy the additional benefits of improved access to their land.
- (iv) The decision to build a concrete road was first taken by the IDB in 1978 after full consideration of the alternatives in consultation with Ministry engineers.
- (v) The estimated benefits of the scheme are assessed on the area as a whole, not on an individual farm basis. When the land is revalued for the purpose of
862 drainage rates, it is likely that farms which enjoy good access will be assessed at higher rateable values.