A PROPOSAL to create a new internal drainage board (IDB) to protect valuable flood-risk farmland and property in South Lakeland has gone out to consultation.

The NFU and Environment Agency launched the public discussion yesterday after years of wrangling over the future of four pumping stations which keep the Lyth Valley and Witherslack flood-free.

Another board for the Waver Wampool area in West Cumbria is also being consulted on.

If agreed, these would be the first IDBs formed in England for over 30 years.

The Environment Agency said funding which pays for the running of pumping stations at Ulpha, Sampool, Pool Bridge and Johnscales will end on December 31.

Previous consultations with farmers and landowners have demonstrated support for investigating the costs of setting up a new IDB.

If agreed by the community, the proposed board would be a new public authority with powers to undertake watercourse maintenance and take over the operation of the pumping stations.

NFU Cumbria chairman, Richard Geldard, a farmer with land in the affected area, said: “We urge all farmers to respond to the consultation and attend the meeting at Kendal Auction mart on the evening of Monday, July 13, so their views can be heard.

"This is our opportunity to secure the economic future of the farmers in the area which is dependent on the operation of the pumping stations. We need farmers to return their ballot papers by August 28 so we can demonstrate whether the proposed IDB has their support.”

Following the consultation period and depending on whether there is sufficient support for the proposed Internal Drainage Boards, the results of the consultation will be submitted to the Environment Agency in October 2015 for them to submit a scheme to Defra. It could then take a further 18 months to form an IDB but during this period a shadow internal drainage boards would be appointed to oversee the transition process together with the Environment Agency.