The Middle Level Commissioners are agricultural ratepayers (those rated on >100 acres of land) that benefit from drainage services provided by their two major land drainage pumping stations which work in combination with circa 300km of raised embankments and 190km of waterways. See Area Plan.
Occupiers of agricultural land (or land with agricultural potential) receive a rate demand direct from the Commissioners. The “rates” on non-agricultural properties, such as houses and factories, are paid through a special levy issued to the District Councils within the Commissioners’ area. The District Councils collect this on behalf of the Commissioners. The Commissioners elect a Board to which Fenland District Council, Huntingdonshire District Council and the Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk appoint members. The Board via an Executive Committee appoint a Chief Executive who leads a modestly sized staffing structure to deliver their various statutory duties and responsibilities.
The Commissioners are, for all intents and purposes, an Internal Drainage Board (IDB) under the Land Drainage Act (1991) and therefore a Risk Management Authority under the Floods & Water Management Act (2010) and have a duty to enhance the environment under the Environment Act (2021).
The Commissioners also have duties and powers under bespoke Acts of Parliament, most notable of these is our role as the four largest Navigation Authority in England (Nene Navigation Act 1753, The Middle Level Acts 1810-74, Middle Level Act 2018).
Our navigation role sets rather challenging boundaries within our management of water levels for flood resilience and land drainage purposes. We also provide a summer water transfer service, with legacy rights to import water into our catchment from the (new!) River Nene.
Relationship with other local IDBs
All IDBs are individual public authorities. There is no governance of the IDBs within the Middle Level by the Middle Level Commissioners i.e. there is no hierarchy. The Middle Level Commissioners and the IDBs operations and financial accounts are therefore independent from each-other.
Video credit: Jay Wingfield
The Middle Level is unique in England in that that it has two tiers of land drainage. The Middle Level Commissioners watercourses could be considered akin to Environment Agency main rivers in other lowland landscapes and within the rest of the Fens.
Land is therefore rated and levied twice where it receives drainage services from a IDB and from the Middle Level Commissioners – the IDB pumps or gravity discharges water into the MLC drains and then the MLC system conveys and pumps water into the Gt Ouse Tidal River.
The Middle Level Commissioners offers a ‘pick & mix’ range of services to local IDBs via its modestly sized staff structure i.e. Clerking (inc. Finance), Operational, Planning and Consenting, Capital Works, Environmental, Mechanical & Electrical.
Middle Level Commissioners’ staff act within delegations and resolutions set by the Boards, as do individual Board members and Chairs.