SRA End of Year Report 2017-18: Building Local Resilience (W5)

This year has seen a change in focus of parts of this programme. Following the 2013-14 floods, very close working with affected Levels & Moors residents helped them to develop their own community flood plans. Several groups are now well-established and communities have the collective knowledge and experience to decide their own best courses ofaction.

The emphasis now, therefore, is more on providing inspiration, support,advice, information and practical help to communities, households, businesses, and landowners across Somerset to encourage and enable them to become more resilient.

Furthermore, Somerset Rivers Authority is making the building of community resilience an integral part of all of its planning.

Integrating community resilience

In March 2018, the SRA’s Community ResilienceOfficer ran a workshop for SRA partners, and guidance is being developed to help partners ensure that they include, inform and listen to communities when developing SRA projects. Bodies such as Natural England, FWAG SW, Somerset Wildlife Trust and the IDBs have been provided with support for community engagement.

Being achieved: Somerset communities have been given advice, information and money. In Curry Rivel, for example, the SRA’s Community Resilience Worker, FWAG SW and Somerset County Council’s flood risk management team have been helping the community and the village primary school to identify ways of reducing flood risk and building local flood resilience. In North Curry and Huntham, the SRA also brought together several agencies to work with residents on tackling local flooding issues.

Community resilience grants

The SRA has helped people to access grants from the SRA-funded Community Resilience in Somerset Partnership (CRiSP) fund.

Butleigh & Butleigh Wootton

A small SRA-funded CRiSP grant enabled the parish’s emergency team to buy two extra torches, so each team member now has a torch.

Chadmead

Chadmead is a small community, accessed via two un-adoptedroads, with extremely patchy sat nav and mobile signals, very poor road surfaces, and no lighting. During the floods of 2013-14, emergency services and other agencies struggled to locate Chadmead residents because of a lack of signage. An earlier SRA-funded CRiSP grant addressed that problem. This year, after 15 months of partnership working and discussion and negotiation, agreement was reached between residents and landowners on several further improvements. These included road-surfacing, signage for a temporary diversion, and arrangements as part of the community plan for local people to work with farmers and their labourers on moves to increase resilience for them all. Another SRA-funded CRiSP grant supported this initiative.

Holcombe

Holcombe Parish Council has compiled an Emergency Plan, which its nine members will implement when occasion (eg, flood) demands. Each parish councillor will take on a specific role, with the VillageHall designated as their emergency HQ. CRiSP gave an SRA-funded grant towards emergency equipment, stored securely at the hall.

Moorland

An SRA-funded CRiSP grantpaid for half of the cost of a new plywood-lined hut at Moorland Village Hall. The hut is used to store flood wardens’ equipment, previously kept high up in the Hall’s loft, only reachable via a ladder. As flood wardens have keys to the hut, all their gear is now much more accessible in a crisis, while still being secure.

Wiveliscombe

Wiveliscombe Town Council updated its Emergency Plan, after consulting the local fire brigade, the 10 Parishes Business Group, Community Centre representatives and the Village Agent, the Rugby Club and local shops and food outlets. An SRA-funded CRiSP grant helped pay for an emergency box for the town, with equipment including Hi Viz vests, foil blankets, torches, lamps and two-way radios (the area has poor mobile phone coverage).

Training and awareness

The SRA’s Community Resilience Officer (CRO) worked with Safe Southwest and the Environment Agency to refresh existing flood warden training materials before training sessions with communities in the autumn. An SRA-funded CRiSP grant put £900 towards the cost ofwork books and other materials for this resilience boosting.

The CRO also ran a successful training session on community resilience with students on the Public Services and 999 Academy courses at Bridgwater & Taunton College in October 2017.

Other activities were tied in with the Environment Agency’s Flood Awareness Week in November, while Levels & Moors communities were encouraged to review their community plans in preparation for winter, and offered support if required. (Community plans provided a good basis for local action when it snowed heavily in March 2018. Although plans were developed largely in preparation for flooding, they do help in other emergencies).

Levels Land Trust

Somerset’s 20 Year Flood Action Plan suggested “establishing a ‘Community Land Trust’ to support a land swap/ transfer/purchase scheme” as a possible means of facilitating “better management of the most vulnerable and challenging parts of the Somerset Levels, with the consent of owners and occupiers, with the intent of helping them to remain profitable and build greater resilience to climate and economic change.”

Being achieved: Phase 1 – Based on its successful development and operation of a Land Trust on Pawlett Hams, SomersetWetland and Wildlife Foundation was commissioned to explore what might be achieved on vulnerable parts of the Levels through innovative tenure and collaborative land management mechanisms. Conclusions stressed the need for greater collaboration between farming, conservation and water management sectors, using a positive common goal as a tool for change.

Phase 2 – FWAG SW, which is delivering this project for the SRA, appointed Will Barnard from Pawlett Hams as a contractor. Work done has included: liaising with partners (Parrett IDB, Natural England, RSPB) and the SRA-funded Maintaining the Resilience of Wet Grassland project; developing a protocol and a questionnaire for visiting landowners on West Moor; visiting all landowners and farmers and seeking agreement on taking forward anew West Moor Association. Work on developing and implementing this association will continue into summer 2018, with a similar approach then rolled out onto Wet Moor in the autumn.

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