New gates have been installed at eight locations across the Somerset Levels and Moors to close roads and keep motorists safe in the event of serious flooding.
The emergency road closure gates will be used in place of temporary ‘Road Closed’ signs to stop vehicles driving through flood water and potentially getting stranded.
New flood closure gates at Muchelney Road in Huish Episcopi.
The Somerset County Council-led scheme was carried out as part of Somerset's 20-Year Flood Action Plan, now co-ordinated by Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA).
The gates will remain open until they are needed in times of flooding and will be secured with a combination padlock.
There are eight sites on four roads:
- A361 East Lyng (Sedgemoor)
- A361 Burrowbridge (Taunton Deane)
- Cutts Road, East Lyng (Sedgemoor)
- Cutts Road, Athelney (Taunton Deane)
- New Road, West Lyng (Sedgemoor)
- Moor Lane, North Curry (Taunton Deane)
- Langport Road, Muchelney (South Somerset)
- Muchelney Road, Huish Episcopi (South Somerset)
Cllr John Osman, Leader of Somerset County Council and Chair of Somerset Rivers Authority, said: “The suggestion of flood gates was put forward by local people and I’m delighted we’ve been able to take it forward. It’s such a simple idea but one which could make a real difference in keeping people safe in the event of severe flooding.
“During the floods in 2014 there were numerous reports of vehicles becoming stranded after ignoring road closed signs. The new gates will make this impossible and should reduce the burden on our emergency services at times when they are likely to be stretched.
“No-one can completely prevent flooding but we’re doing everything we can through the Flood Action Plan to reduce its impact and help protect our local communities.”
New flood closure gates at Langport Road, Muchelney. These are made of wood because it's a Conservation Area. All the others are steel.
As part of the Flood Action Plan works, the gates were funded from a £10m grant from the Department of Transport for highway improvements, which also funded key schemes like the road-raising at Muchelney and the installation of culverts at Beer Wall (part of the SRA's major River Sowy / King's Sedgemoor Drain initiative).
The new gates - if and when they are used - will be accompanied by comprehensive diversions and signage, and drivers will have room to turn around and take an alternative route if they have not seen the diversion signs.
The gates can be operated by Somerset County Council or the emergency services based on flood information provided by the Environment Agency. When gates are closed, key services along with some local residents and landowners will be provided with the combination to allow essential access.
Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service urge residents not to drive through floodwater, as they could be putting themselves or others in danger, and to pay attention to road closure signs. Attending incidents which could be prevented may also divert fire crews from other incidents where lives are at risk.
Group Manager Tony Jones said: “It is impossible for motorists to tell how deep water is or the condition of the ground beneath. There is a significant risk to life if motorists become stranded.
“If you do see floodwater on the road, do not attempt to drive through it but try to find an alternative route. And if a road has been closed, it is for the safety of the public and closure signs should be respected.”