Consultants have been appointed to carry out detailed technical work on a barrier in the River Parrett to protect Bridgwater and the Somerset Levels and Moors from the risk of tidal flooding.
The construction of a tidal surge barrier by 2024 – subject to appropriate funding and approvals – is a key element of Somerset’s 20-Year Flood Action Plan, drawn up after the floods of 2013/14. The Environment Agency and Sedgemoor District Council are working together on the project, supported by Somerset Rivers Authority.
Previous studies and research have identified a Bridgwater Barrier as the best long-term solution for the protection of approximately 10,000 properties and over 600 businesses for the next 100 years or more.
Consultants CH2MHill have now been appointed by the Environment Agency and Sedgemoor District Council to look at a range of possible locations, gate arrangements and operating regimes for a barrier. An 18-month study will cover the management of water levels, silt and navigation and assess environmental benefits and impacts.
The tidal flood plain in Bridgwater. Image from a Flood Risk Management Review conducted for the Environment Agency and Sedgemoor District Council by Black & Veatch.
A full programme of information events will be finalised in the coming months to give people chance to contribute their thoughts and opinions.
Once a final location and operational design has been decided upon, a lengthy legal process will be required to achieve the Secretary of State’s approval and the necessary powers for construction.
The programme for the delivery of a tidal surge barrier has been accelerated since the 2014 flooding on the Somerset Levels as it is now recognised that the barrier would also have some positive role in reducing the duration of any future flood event (mainly by allowing pumping from the Levels into the River Parrett to take place for longer periods).
Funding has been secured for the pre-construction phase from a combination of Heart of SW Local Enterprise Partnership and Sedgemoor District Council developer contributions, and flood defence grant in aid. Approximately £9m towards the scheme will have been secured through developer funding from sites across Bridgwater in Sedgemoor District Council’s Flood tariff.