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SRA Progress Update Autumn 2015

Autumn 2015 Progress Update

Somerset Rivers Authority exists to provide higher standards of flood protection than ordinary national funding allows for. This Autumn 2015 Progress Update details some of the work that the SRA has recently been involved with, including dredging, road-raising, grants for farmers - and a new boat.

Flooding cost Somerset £147.5m

An Economic Impact Assessment produced for the SRA shows that the winter floods of 2013/14 cost Somerset up to £147.5 million. The South West Peninsula was also badly hit.

The research is being used to shape the SRA’s future work and to provide evidence for investment in flood risk management.

Abandoned caravan A361 Somerset floods 2014

There was 150km2 of flooding, with 81 road closures (above: A361), and at least 165 homes, 50 businesses and 12 farmsteads flooded inside.

Lost tourist days in Somerset between January and July 2014 could have been 698,091.

Future funding of the SRA

Somerset Rivers Authority is seeking a local and long-term solution to the long-standing problem of getting sufficient funding for the extra flood protection work the county needs.

At a special SRA meeting in September, members agreed to recommend to Government Ministers that the SRA should become a statutory precepting body.

This means the SRA would appear on Somerset council tax bills alongside the local parish or town council, district council, county council, police and fire and rescue service.

Cash could also be raised from landowners and land occupiers outside the areas already covered by the Parrett Drainage Board and the Axe Brue Drainage Board.

Legislation to give the SRA fund-raising powers would have to pass through Parliament and as there is no chance of that process being completed in the next few months, Ministers are also being asked for more interim funding so important work can carry on across Somerset. 

In 2015/16, the SRA’s interim funding is £2.7million (£1.9m from Defra, the rest from Somerset County Council, district councils and Somerset Drainage Boards Consortium).

Exactly what householders and landowners might pay has not been worked out, but sticking with £2.7m would represent an increase of around 1% on total household council tax bills.

For more information, phone 01823 357824 visit www.somersetriversauthority.org.uk

or email sra@somerset.gov.uk

20 Year Flood Action Plan makes good progress across Somerset

A lot has been done; more has been funded so it can be done. For some longer-term schemes, the SRA and its partners are seeking funding.


Targeted dredging and de-silting are planned for the next few years, using this year’s interim funding of £2.7m and Heart of the South West LEP Growth Deal funding of £13.1m over six years (for flood risk management work including dredging).

As silt tends mostly to build up over the summer, a lot of dredging is scheduled to take place from this Autumn so as to get best value.

Some dredging is being delivered by the Environment Agency, some by the Internal Drainage Boards.

2.5km of maintenance dredging starts this Autumn as part of a four-year rolling cycle of maintenance dredging on the 8km of the Parrett and Tone dredged in summer 2014. The work follows a survey monitoring silt build-up. It will be done upstream of Northmoor pumping station.

Somerset Rivers Authority chair John Osman on a fact-finding visit to the Northmoor area.
Somerset Rivers Authority chair John Osman on a fact-finding visit to the Northmoor area

Downstream of Northmoor pumping station, 750 metres of new dredging costing £2.14million is due to start in February. The work will be done almost entirely from floating platforms. More cost-effective dredging methods are being sought and a new dredging strategy drawn up.

Meanwhile, new dredging is planned for the full length of the Cripps River near East Huntspill (3km), sections of the Mark Yeo near Tarnock and along the lowland channel of Hixham Rhyne near Cheddar (4km).

New dredging on the River Brue from Westhay to North Drain pumping station (4km) is planned for the next financial year; preparation for this work begins this year.

The Environment Agency is dredging 41km of main drain across the Levels and Moors, which feed the main pumping stations. 20km of this work has already been completed; the other 21km will be done over the next 12-18 months.

Locations with the greatest physical benefit to people and property are prioritised. Below: the EA’s Penzoy dredge underway this Autumn.

Burrow Wall rhyne Allerdrove start of Penzoy system dredge by Environment Agency Somerset

River modelling shows reduced risk

A River Modelling report released in August showed the importance of the 8km dredge on the Parrett and Tone, and the provision of extra pumping power, if there were similar flooding to that of 2013/14.

Together, they would significantly cut the risk of flooding to nearly 130 of the 142 properties reported to the Environment Agency as having flooded in Northmoor and Saltmoor, reduce closure of the A361 to about 3 weeks instead of the 9-10 weeks experienced, and clear the Moors of water more quickly.

Ringbanks: will more follow Thorney?

The Thorney Pottery Ringbank and road ramp was completed, and a community-led opening ceremony was held at Thorney Village Ringbank in June.

Thorney villagers SRA representatives look at ring bank work site
At the start of Thorney's ring bank work...

Thorney end ring bank work celebration
At the end of Thorney's ring bank work.

Moorland and Chadmead are going to be consulted about the idea of building ring banks to protect properties there, following an initial survey carried out by the Environment Agency on behalf of the SRA this summer. The SRA wants to see whether a consensus can be established, in favour or against. Only if people are in favour will further work on matters such as design even be considered. No more discussions are planned for now in Fordgate, as the EA’s initial survey showed people against the idea of a ring bank there. (PS: The work the EA’s now doing to strengthen Athelney Spillway is nothing to do with ring banks!)

Increasing capacity of Sowy/King’s Sedgemoor Drain brings big benefits

A major improvement scheme for the River Sowy and King’s Sedgemoor Drain will – after the 8km dredge on the Parrett and Tone – bring the greatest benefit for residents, infrastructure and land in the Parrett and Tone catchments, as well as areas adjacent to the King’s Sedgemoor Drain (KSD), River Sowy and River Cary.

Beer Wall in time of flood A372 Somerset 2014
Beer Wall, flood

Giant culvert being installed at Beer Wall under A372 Somerset
Beer Wall, giant culvert being installed

Beer Wall culverts installed A372 Somerset
Beer Wall, giant culverts installed

Reopened Beer Wall A372 Somerset 2015
Beer Wall, A372, reopened 2015

The first two phases of work at Beer Wall - see pictures above - have been completed by Somerset County Council and Skanksa, and now the Environment Agency – acting for the SRA – has started Phase 3.

This involves increasing the capacity of the Sowy/KSD by aligning the rivers Sowy and Langacre to the four new culverts that were installed under the A372.

It also includes installing concrete piled walls, supporting piles and a base slab framework for two new tilting weirs to control water levels. The tilting weirs will enable the River Sowy system to be used more flexibly, and will also mean that upstream and downstream pumping stations can be operated earlier. This will benefit many places affected by floods such as Langport, Muchelney, Thorney, Moorland and Fordgate.

Phase 3 is due to finish in summer 2016. More work is then proposed over the next three years to allow more water to pass from the River Parrett into the River Sowy, which will help reduce flows on the Parrett and allow the Tone to discharge more readily. This will use Growth Deal funding from Heart of the South West LEP.

Extra work on local measures

Local measures across Somerset include raising a low point in a bank between river and road to stop it overflowing onto the road and affecting properties (Cad Road & Rapps, Ilminster) and intersecting surface water off a field that runs into the backs of a row of houses (Frog Lane, Enmore).

Other locations for improvements include Laverton, Lower Henlade, Ilminster, Sampford Brett, Old Cleeve, Washford, Combe Florey, Wootton Courtenay, Holford, Minehead, Wigborough and Bicknoller.

Improvements and repairs

Projects across the county include overflow and drainage improvements, surveys and feasibility studies, bank and spillway repairs and pumping station improvements.

• Work to enable temporary pumping at Northmoor Pumping Station completed.

• Westonzoyland flood defence scheme.

• All damaged flood defences reinstated to pre-flood levels.

Channel conveyance (water-carrying capacity) is being maintained through removal of vegetation and/or sediment on sections of the River Yeo in Ilchester and under the A303 near Ilchester, West Sedgemoor and Allermoor.

Award for road-raising scheme

Muchelney from the air surrounded by floods Somerset 2014
Muchelney, an aerial view in time of flood

Somerset County Council’s road-raising scheme at Muchelney - part of the Flood Action Plan - won the Effective Transport and Infrastructure Delivery Award at The Municipal Journal Achievement Awards. The project was also Highly Commended for the Construction and Engineering Project of the Year Award in the National Transport Awards. 

Muchelney road raising work in progress
Muchelney road raising work in progress

Muchelney road raised and reopened

500m of road was raised by up to 1.2 metres in just five months so that it can stay open even through severe flooding. Muchelney was cut-off for around 10 weeks last year when all four of the roads into the village were submerged.

Bridgwater Barrier 

The team working on this £27m-£30m project for the River Parrett have been learning lessons from similar barrier projects around the country, particularly in Boston and Ipswich, and are planning for building work to start in 2021/22.

Hills to Levels Land Management

The idea behind the project Hills to Levels – Joining up the Catchment is that ‘Every farm and every stream has a part to play’ in better managing the flows of water around the county.

Between February and August, 286 visits were made to farms - 183 first visits, 103 follow-ups. 179 Land Management grant schemes are under discussion.

Examples of land management changes that can be funded by Hills to Levels include:

• Silt settlement ponds / silt traps

• Leaky ponds / de-silting existing ponds

• Banks and bunds

• Rainwater harvesting and guttering

• Ditch blocking

• Filter–fences to reduce sediment loss

• Hedge planting / tree planting

• Soil husbandry visits to reduce compaction 

• Leaky woody debris dams

Urban water management

A Regeneration and Infrastructure Manager has been appointed by Taunton Deane Borough Council to take forward the Tone Attenuation Project (creating a large flood storage area upstream of Taunton, near Bradford-on-Tone). A bid for further funding from Heart of the South West LEP Growth Deal 3 has been submitted.

New community flood support boat

Spirit of the Levels community boat naming voyage Somerset
Somerset's new community boat, the Spirit of the Levels

A new community boat will help people in Somerset cope with future flooding emergencies. As the boat is wheelchair-accessible, it also provides access to the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal for groups of disabled people and those with limited mobility.

Download a PDF of The Stream SRA Progress Update Autumn 2015

Click to download a PDF of this issue of The Stream.

Read Somerset Rivers Authority March 2015 Progress Update

Click to read the Somerset Rivers Authority Progress Update from March 2015.

If you would like to get in touch please contact us at sra@somerset.gov.uk or tel: 01823 355111
The Flood Action Plan is now overseen by the Somerset Rivers Authority and can be contacted on the above.