In 1252 the Romney Marsh Commissions were created to provide a living and working environment in the Romney Marsh. The creation of this local authority recognised that in large drainage sensitive areas it required a combined effort beyond the scope of the individual to successfully manage the environment. This local authority approach was repeated many times, particularly in the seventeenth century, to ensure the best agricultural land in the country was available for production. However, it was not until a Royal Commission of 1928 that the present day Drainage Boards were envisaged. In the subsequent Land Drainage Act of 1930 River Catchment Boards were formed based on the country’s major river basins. Within these Catchment Boards there were areas particularly drainage sensitive, many like Romney Marsh, that had a long history of local water level management authorities. It was these sensitive areas that were designated Internal Drainage Boards; areas within a Catchment Board boundary.
Over the centuries these areas have become more populated and peoples expectations in terms of flood protection have increased. Hence the work of Drainage Authorities has become increasingly more vital.
There is a greater population in the low lying areas of England dependent on complex systems of land drainage and flood defence than exists in Holland.
With over 2 million acres of land, including large areas of development dependent on water level management systems, it is essential that these systems are well managed. Without these works the environment, living and working conditions would suffer.
Over the centuries successive British Governments have recognised the need to manage these drainage sensitive areas, initially to maximise food production and more recently to provide safe conditions for a major residential building programme. Drainage Boards have been at the forefront of providing local solutions to these Government initiatives.
The Boards with locally elected members in control have the knowledge to ensure that their communities are as safe as possible, able to prosper and enjoy the amenity and biodiversity benefits that are available in well-managed lowland areas.
With climate change high on the national and international agenda increased challenges are inevitable as weather patterns become more intense and sea levels rise. Expert opinion leads to the conclusion that large parts of the world will not be able to sustain food production, therefore decisions will have to be made whether to continue to protect the most productive agricultural land in the British Isles or to abandon it and the surrounding communities to the elements.
With over 700 years of experience Drainage Boards are ready for the challenges ahead.