The new Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA) was officially launched at the weekend on January 31 – with doubly good news as the work of the Flood Action Plan, for which it is now responsible, received a three quarters of a million pound funding boost.
The SRA’s set up, start date and interim funding for the coming financial year was recently agreed between the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), Somerset’s five local authorities and the Somerset Consortium of Drainage Boards.
The new SRA will help identify what is needed, and fund and deliver a higher standard of flood protection in Somerset than is currently provided, as well as ensure the large number of separate flood risk management authorities in the county work together through a combined programme.
Now a website explaining more about the SRA and its work has been developed for the launch, and the first Board meeting has been set for February 27 – at which a Chairman and Deputy will be elected.
Defra is providing £1.9 million funding for the SRA’s first year, with partners Somerset County Council providing £600,000, and between them Sedgemoor District Council, Taunton Deane Borough Council, South Somerset District Council, Mendip District Council, West Somerset District Council and Somerset Consortium of Drainage Boards are providing £200,000.
Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said: "The formation of the Somerset Rivers Authority is a milestone in protecting Somerset from future flooding.
"Last year, we experienced the wettest winter in 250 years and we have worked hard to get those affected back on their feet. We provided more than £20m to support the recovery in Somerset and asked local partners to develop a long-term action plan to improve flood protection. We have now committed £1.9m for the first year of funding for the SRA which will give local people real power to control and manage the flood risk in their area."
Councillor John Osman, Chairman of the Flood Action Plan Leaders Implementation Group and Leader of Somerset County Council, said: “Establishing the Somerset Rivers Authority was one of the key Actions of the 20 Year Flood Action Plan, set up at the Government’s request to reduce the severity, duration and frequency of flooding like that experienced in 2013/14.
“By working together, partners in Somerset have already achieved a tremendous amount during this past year. Now the SRA will play a vital role in delivering higher standards of flood protection than would be funded nationally, as well as providing better flood protection and stronger resilience against further flooding.”
Work to include
During its first year the SRA’s work will involve:
- Co-ordinating partners’ current work and developing efficiencies wherever possible for joint delivery during 2015/16 in what is known as a Common Works Programme
- All Somerset’s Flood Risk Management Authorities coming together for the first time to plan their future joint work programme for 2016/17
- Undertaking a new Enhanced Maintenance Programme for 2015/16 for flood risk management activity across all districts in Somerset - including maintaining the 2014 dredge on the Parrett and Tone.
- Carrying on the work of the 20 Year Flood Action Plan
- Developing a long term funding solution
The SRA’s new website is at www.somersetriversauthority.org.uk with full details about the new organisation.
Meanwhile, the welcome £750,000 funding from the Royal Bath & West Society came after it successfully bid to the People's Postcode Lottery for the Somerset Levels Dream Fund.
The award will boost an important programme of land management work with farmers over a number of years, as part of the Flood Action Plan.
John Osman, Chairman of the Flood Action Plan’s Leaders Implementation Group and Leader of Somerset County Council, said: “This is a double celebration indeed, with both the start of the SRA and this excellent news. We heartily congratulate the Bath & West for all their efforts in winning this award, which will give a huge boost to the Flood Action Plan work.”