Update: Couple say Environment Agency’s end to river clearing will hit Brecks tourism

Hannah and Jeff Hibbs with one of their log cabins ENGANL00120110702150528
Hannah and Jeff Hibbs with one of their log cabins ENGANL00120110702150528
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A couple with a farm holiday business say lack of maintenance is making the river running through it unsafe.

Hannah and Jeff Hibbs have invested in Little Lodge Farm, Santon Downham, to boost the tourism side of the business with log cabins, camping and caravanning facilities. They also have a livery yard and about 800 pigs.

But they say the Environment Agency’s decision to stop weed cutting in the Little Ouse River could threaten their business by making the river unusable for canoeists and anglers.

Hannah said: “Brecks tourism is always wanting to promote the river for kayaks and canoes but in some places they can’t use it.

“We’ve had an email from a visitor who had to abandon a trip on the river because he couldn’t launch his kayak from the farm. He was very knowledgeable and said the amount of weed could affect the ecology of the river by making it too dark.

“It’s a safety issue, too.”

Jeff’s family have lived there for 30 years but last winter was the first time their riverside fields flooded.

Hannah said: “They were under water for months. When I phoned the Environment Agency they said we should think ourselves lucky it wasn’t our house.”

But they fear the weed will slow the river down and make it silt up, so flooding becomes more frequent.”

“It isn’t having a massive impact now, but it could do,” Hannah said. “If it affects the fields again we could lose livery clients who want to graze them.”

A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency said: “We have a responsibility to cut weed in certain areas to help prevent flood risk and usually carry that out before the winter when the risk of flooding is higher.

“We have a duty to target our funds to areas where the flood risk is greatest.

“Riparian [riverbank] owners have some responsibilities to keep the water flowing past their property to help prevent risk of flooding.”

UPDATE: Environment Agency workers began a two-week weed cutting programme on the river on June 30. Hannah said: “The boat guys had been told no funding to cut here and then all of a sudden Monday morning they are told they are to cut at Santon Downham.”