Work on two major Somerset County Council schemes to protect communities on the Levels and Moors from flooding are due to the start at the end of the month.
The road-raising at Muchelney and the introduction of four new culverts on the A372 at Beer Wall are scheduled to start on 29 September. The works are part of the Somerset Levels and Moors Flood Action Plan being delivered by a range of agencies, coordinated by County Council.
Both schemes are being undertaken for the Council by highways contractor Skanska and will result in road closures from 29 September for an estimated ten weeks. Before then, an Environment Agency scheme to construct a new flood defence at Aller will require the closure of Aller Drove on 15 September for around six weeks.
“It is great news that these key projects are about to start,” said Councillor John Osman, Chairman of the Flood Action Plan Leaders Implementation Group and Leader of Somerset County Council. “They are a clear statement that we, and all the other agencies involved in the plan, are taking action and I’m sure local communities will be happy to see work underway.
“There is no way of doing this work without closing roads, and multiple projects have to be undertaken as the same time if they are to have a chance of being completed this year.
“Everyone will do their very best to keep disruption to a minimum and I’m sure anyone who saw the devastation last winter will appreciate that the long-term gain is well worth the short-term inconvenience.”
The County Council and the Environment Agency have worked closely to minimise the impact of the works on road users. However, to make sure the projects can be delivered as soon as possible there will be a period where both the A372 at Beer Wall and nearby Aller Drove will both be closed at the same time.
For all closures, diversion routes will take motorists along the shortest equivalent road alternative, though locals may find shorter routes. Drop-in sessions are planned later this month in Muchelney and Aller for people to discuss the schemes, road closures and diversions.
Pat Hall from the Environment Agency said: “We have been working hard to develop the two projects at Aller as quickly as possible to ensure they are in place before the winter, and to minimise the disruption caused to residents during construction. We anticipate this work will take six weeks to complete. We will continue to update residents throughout the work, and will inform everyone as soon as the road has been re-opened.
“We will also be available at our Asset Recovery Community Engagement event on Monday 15 September, -pm-7pm at the Willow & Wetland Centre, Stoke St Gregory, TA3 6HY, to answer any of your queries.”
Simon White, Business Director, Skanska, said: “Skanska is delighted to be delivering these schemes for Somerset County Council. As highway maintenance contractor for the council we are critically aware of the importance of these schemes to the local communities having been heavily involved in the flood response earlier this year. Our teams our working hard planning the schemes to ensure we deliver the key objectives in 2014 whilst looking to minimise disruption as much as possible.”
•The Muchelney scheme will see a 500m stretch of the Drayton Road from Muchelney will be raised by over 120cm at the lowest point. This should maintain road access to the village if there is a repeat of last winter’s flooding that left the village cut-off for a prolonged period.
•The four new culverts at Beer Wall will be built to the east of Langacre Rhyne, which runs alongside the Sowy under the A372. At times of flood, the culverts will allow water to pass under the road and feed back into the rhyne preventing the road from flooding. Last winter the A372 was flooded at Beer Wall for several weeks and then closed to accommodate emergency pumping. Phase one of the scheme will see a trench cut into the A372 where the culverts will later be installed. A bridge will span the trench so that the road remains open for the winter. Phase two will happen in the spring when weather improves and will see the culverts installed and the road reinstated over them.
The organisations working to deliver the Flood Action Plan are:
•Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
•Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group
•Sedgemoor District Council
•Somerset County Council
•Somerset Internal Drainage Boards
•South Somerset District Council
•Taunton Deane Borough Council
•Mendip District Council