The above may have been superseded.
It appears that water vole homes are protected by law - but the homes of people and commercial properties are not. Blame it on the wildlife - people do not matter.
Even if the water voles ‘structure or place’ is unoccupied it is still an offence to ‘damage, destroy or obstruct’ I do not know if the animal itself is yet protected.
The EA cannot by law clear any river bank or dredge any river because of water voles, crayfish, etc
Trees cannot be cleared because of similar laws regarding bats.
Therefore towns must be allowed to flood - it is the law.
Is there any law that says you must not cause flooding and death in a town by negligence? Has the EA ever been sued? It is mechanically feasible to clear a river and to stop a town flooding but because of EU / British law this cannot be done - could this be clarified in a British court?
Aother problem is the dredged material is classed as waste (£80/tonne to tip) by EU law but I think Lord Kingsland disagreed. If it is waste then it is virtually impossible to dispose of it. I suppose ‘it depends’ The European Dredging Association is trying to fight this battle.