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March Progress Update

Progress update

March 2015

This is an update on the progress being made by the Flood Action Plan, the implementation of which is now overseen by the Somerset Rivers Authority. Some actions are already funded and are being tackled immediately, while others are more long-term or do not yet have funding. It is our intention to provide these update reports every two months through the Somerset Rivers Authority website.

Progress updates can also be emailed directly to you. If you would like to receive them this way, or have other questions, please email floodactionplan@somerset.gov.uk and if you would like to view connected press releases please click here.
The Flood Action Plan is coordinated by the Somerset Rivers Authority but there are many different organisations responsible for carrying it out, including the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; the Environment Agency; the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group; Natural England; Sedgemoor District Council; Somerset Internal Drainage Boards; South Somerset District Council; Taunton Deane Borough Council; Mendip District Council; West Somerset District Council; the Department for Communities and Local Government; the Royal Bath & West Society.

* Please see a list of meetings / diary dates at the end of this update.

Somerset Rivers Authority Updates – Work overview
From January 31, the Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA) was designated the managing body in charge of implementing the Flood Action Plan. It will be the SRA’s task to determine, by bringing together the Flood Risk Management Authorities (FRMAs), what further work should be done, and to raise the relevant funding within Somerset and from other sources. Due to the importance of the SRA’s management role in relation to the Flood Action Plan, it has been provided with a separate section in this and future progress updates.

The SRA will not lessen its partners’ and landowners’ responsibilities and accountabilities. Existing Flood Risk Management authorities will continue their work, with greater opportunities to link their activities, and ensure they benefit from each other’s collective experience and knowledge. The SRA will offer local partners a way to take greater responsibility for flood risk and water management, work which will include proposals for a county-wide mechanism to generate funds.

News regarding the SRA’s work, minutes and agendas for its board meetings and regularly updated information, are all available on the SRA website. This section of the progress update will supplement information on the SRA website, by drawing attention to key meetings and milestones.

Somerset Rivers Authority – Achieved by end of February
The SRA was established on January 31. Its first board meeting was held on February 27, which included the election of the chair and co-chair, and the adoption of the SRA constitution. The programme of work for the coming year was discussed and confirmed, including the development of a long-term funding mechanism, a common works programme, and the delivery of an enhanced maintenance programme. The allocation of the SRA’s first year budget of £2.7m - £2.25m on the enhanced maintenance programme, and £450k for developing the SRA was endorsed.

The meeting was open to the general public, encouraging an exchange of ideas and establishing greater transparency. A total of 27 questions were received from members of the public, and all were provided with full written answers.

Somerset Rivers Authority – Work planned / started in March
Stakeholder funding review panel meetings were held on March 6 and March 23, to help identify options for suitable funding mechanisms to ensure a sustainable funding source for the SRA and its programme of work. The review is evaluating all possible funding options for the Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA), considering the advantages and disadvantages of each, their ease of delivery, and how long it will take to put them in place. It is due to be completed by July 2015, when a report must be put to government ministers.

The second board meeting took place on March 25, the agenda and papers for which are available on the SRA website. The third board meeting will be held on July 22.

Dredging and River Management – Work overview
This work is led by the Environment Agency (EA), working closely with other partners. It involves various measures to physically improve the flow of water, build new flood defences, repair banks and structures damaged during the flooding, and develop the river model to predict how the catchment will respond to flooding after these various flood risk management interventions.

There are some projects that are funded and are being delivered immediately, but others are longer term and funding still needs to be secured.

Dredging and River Management – Achieved by end of February
Future dredging project: Information on the results of a high level assessment of dredging carried out at 10 locations on rivers in the Somerset Levels and Moors (SLM) rivers, following a successful 8km dredge on the Rivers Parrett and Tone, was shared with the public through email, the gov.uk website, social media, and information events at parish councils and communities. Initial assessments for additional work suggest that dredging the River Parrett downstream of the Northmoor Pumping Station will offer the greatest flood risk reduction benefits in adjacent communities. Local Growth Fund money previously announced will be used at the selected site(s).

Asset repairs: A pre-flood standard of flood protection has been established at 50+ locations, in a multi-million pound programme of works. This has involved extensive repairs to flood banks on the Rivers Parrett and Tone. Spillway repairs at Middlemoor and Allermoor were completed in February.

Bridgwater Barrier/Sluice: An Interim technical report about the options for a Parrett Barrier brought together and updated a wealth of information from the past eight years from various organisations. See the report at here and to comment email Parrett.Barrier@sedgemoor.gov.uk.

Ring Banks: The construction of the Thorney Pottery Ringbank, which is being funded by the Environment Agency, using the IDB Contractor, began in February.

Improvement scheme for Sowy/Kings Sedgemoor Drain: The public consultation on the proposed Sowy/Kings Sedgemoor Drain capacity improvements, to be implemented by mid-2015, closed on January 9. The survey received 101 responses. Preferences indicated in the study were divided relatively equally between eight proposed options. The three most popular options included increasing operation of Monk’s Leaze Clyce, simple improvements at the Kings Sedgemoor Drain system at Dunball, and channel improvements.

Permanent defences: The new piled flood defence wall was completed. Works to construct the pile cap and reinstate the surrounding area will be on-going for the next couple of months in consultation with the local community. These works provide a permanent flood defence and protection to properties in Grays Avenue in Westonzoyland. 

Make permanent temporary pump platforms: At Dunball a platform for temporary pumps is now complete. Works continue to complete the new compound/storage area. These works will allow the Environment Agency to bring in temporary pumps more easily and quickly, should there be a need in the future.

The Northmoor Pumping Station permanent pumps were  converted from running on diesel to electricity, and a permanent concrete pump platform was established. Designs for repairs on the existing discharge culvert at the Northmoor Pumping Station were completed.

Trigger Level Document: Trigger documents for 10 agreed sites, explaining what, when and why certain operational decisions are undertaken in extraordinary flood conditions, have been rolled out at 30 public/partner meetings and were well received. They were finalised in December and January after public feedback.

Review of Impact of Existing Water Level Management Plans on 2013/14 Flooding: A Centre of Ecology and Hydrology review was completed, considering whether seasonal water kept in storage ditches could exacerbate potential flooding situations. The study indicated storage in ditches would have a relatively minor impact on degrees of flooding. The full study and its summary are available on the Somerset Rivers Authority website here.

Dredging and River Management – Work planned / started in March
Future dredging project: Starting in March a detailed appraisal and design process for the next section of dredging is being carried out. Works on the ground will start later this summer.

Asset repairs: Future work to strengthen flood defences will be undertaken as business as usual. The spillways at Middlemoor and Allermoor are being reseeded and topsoiled, and these works will be completed by the end of March.

Bridgwater Barrier/Sluice: The Environment Agency and Sedgemoor District Council hosted the second Parrett Barrier workshop on March 4 for partners and stakeholders. At the workshop both a preliminary silt management study and an options review for a barrier were presented. These studies continue to support the tidal surge barrier as the preferred option. This option has the greatest chance of being funded and delivered in the shortest time.

Ring Banks: The Thorney Pottery Ringbank is now substantially complete, and will provide improved flood protection to 14 properties. Construction on the road ramp started in early March, and will be delivered by the Somerset County Council’s highways team.

Improvement scheme for Sowy/King Sedgemoor Drain: The final phase of the Sowy/KSD works at Beer Wall will be delivered this summer and the related design process is currently underway.

The process of appraising and developing options to further improve the Sowy/KSD drain in 2016/17, utilising Local Growth Deal funding, continues. It will be discussed through further public consultation in Autumn 2015. Ground investigations and environmental assessments will be undertaken as part of the process.

Permanent defences: Finishing off works and tidying up the site is to be completed by the end of April/early May, in consultation with the local community. Residents of Grays Avenue in Westonzoyland are being kept informed of the on-going work, through social media and regular hand-delivered briefing notes.

Make permanent temporary pump platforms: It is expected that the repairs to the discharge culvert at the Northmoor Pumping Station will start in March. This will ensure the structural integrity of the culvert when and if permanent pumps are used in the future.

Support: On March 4, a Flood Newsletter was distributed to all flood-affected residents on the Levels and Moors, and also to relevant volunteer and sector agencies. The newsletter detailed the Flood Re scheme that the Association of British Insurance is working hard to try and get up and running by summer 2015. The newsletter also contains contact details that residents can use to obtain assistance when seeking flood insurance.

Land Management – Work overview
This work is being shared between the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG), Royal Bath and West Society, Somerset Wildlife Trust, Natural England (NE) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

It involves a range of ways to encourage land use that stops or slows water entering river courses and maximises natural flood management.

It includes:
• Increasing catchment sensitive farming techniques;
• Developing a locally administered capital grant for land management works;
• New funding for wetland habitats;
• Using farm environmental schemes for reducing flood risk;
• Recognising the value of the flood plain.

Land Management – Achieved by end of February
Funding bids: £750,000 in funding has been sourced through the Royal Bath & West Society.

Scoping and targeting work: Following digital terrain modelling work, a staff member was appointed to carry out

Community Land Management Trust: Part of the £750,000 funding, as detailed above, will be used for developing the concept of the Community Land Trust. This will lead to community-led social enterprise, delivering multiple benefits from managing land to supporting the levels and its communities, assisting farming adaptation and resilience, and promoting nature and heritage preservation.

Land Management – Work planned / started in March
Funding bids: Part of the £750,000 will help fund an advice and support package for landowners throughout the catchment over the next two years. The funding will also offer capital grants for farmers and land managers to implement positive flood management works and wetland resilience works across the whole catchment. This funding for capital grants will be combined with £550,000 secured as part of the Local Growth Deal. This is a key part of the Flood Action Plan.

Scoping and targeting work: Throughout the winter months, work has been carried out to identify those areas of the catchment where most can be done to reduce run-off and slow water flow. This work has included flow pathway mapping and assessing which soils have the greatest potential for storing water. Work has also begun in identifying sites for run-off attenuation works.

In spring/summer 2015, Natural England will contact all Higher Level Stewardship agreement holders, who are landowners or managers that receive agri-environment funding for delivering conservation benefits, to explore the potential for delivering more through these agreements in regards to flood risk management.

Community Land Management Trust: In March the process of investigating the potential to develop a Levels and Moors Community Land Trust began. This process will explore the potential structure, governance and local support for such a venture, while researching similar models elsewhere.

The process is being carried out with funding from the Dream Fund 'Hills to Levels' Project, in coordination with the Royal Bath & West Society. A Community Land Trust has the potential to provide a mechanism for handling some areas of the Somerset Levels and Moors that are proving increasingly difficult to manage, and involve the local communities in deciding how these areas are managed in the future.

Urban Water Management – Work overview
This work is being led by Taunton Deane Borough Council but will need close working with other Districts and the County Council, as well as major utility companies.

It involves various projects focussed on the role that urban areas play in the catchment, and what can be done in those areas to reduce flood risk in other locations. It includes:
• Reviewing Sustainable Urban Drainage systems (SuDs) and providing advice on their design and delivery;
• Encouraging the use of permeable surfaces and SuDs;
• Reviewing planning policies;
• Encouraging authorities to identify and deliver flood mitigation sites upstream to manage and control flood water movement;
• Put in place schemes to tackle flooding ‘hotspots’.

Urban Water Management – Achieved by end of February
River Tone upstream flood attenuation scheme: An on-going priority has been the construction of a large flood storage area upstream of Taunton, near Bradford-on-Tone, by 2026. In February partners explored what further funding sources might be available in the future.

Flooding hotspots: The design and development process for infrastructure works at flooding hotspots continued throughout February, preparing for work which started before the end of March. Depending on costs, some schemes may be carried into the next financial year from April 2015.

At Monksilver, work to improve surface water drainage commenced in February, while drainage improvements in Laverton were completed in February.

SuDs guidance: It was decided that SCC, as the Lead Local Flood Authority, should be the statutory consultee for planning processes regarding the major development and maintenance of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SuDs). Additional funding resources are necessary to support SCC in carrying out this duty.

Urban Water Management – Work planned  / started in March
River Tone upstream flood attenuation scheme: Taunton Deane Borough Council and the Environment Agency have started scoping out the next phase of the project. This will involve preparing a brief for the next phase, which will include feasibility and design details. A consultant will be appointed to carry out the work.

Flooding hotspots: Work has continued at hotspots in March. At Roadwater and Washford the installation of property level protection has commenced. Surface water drainage improvement works at Monksilver have been completed in March.

Some infrastructure work has been completed at North Curry, while a CCTV survey has been carried out to monitor flow in surface water sewers and highway drains. A report of results that will determine which improvement measures are required is expected this month. Similar reports following CCTV surveys are also expected for Stoke St Gregory and East Stoke.

At Creech St Michael, the process of hiring a contractor will push works into the 2015/16 financial year. In Ilminster some works have been completed and others will be carried over into 2015/16, while in West Hatch and Rode, work will continue into 2015/16.

The programme of work for other sites, for the 2015/16 financial year, will be developed in March. This provisional programme will be subject to funding and detailed cost estimates.

SuDs guidance: On March 24 it was announced that the Somerset County Council will become a statutory consultee in regards to surface water drainage, which will come into force from April 15.

In March a meeting was organised between SCC and Local Planning Authorities to decide on steps required to ensure the provision and maintenance of SuDs on new developments. The meeting addressed the need for the long-term maintenance of SuDs, which will be the responsibility of developers to propose, and will be secured by planning conditions.

From April 6, SuDs will need to be incorporated into all major development, unless they are demonstrated to be inappropriate, and Local Planning Authorities will be responsible for ensuring this. Supporting national guidance, outlining how sustainable urban drainage systems should be incorporated into planning processes, is being awaited. SCC is preparing a validation checklist for Local Planning Authorities, so they are aware of the information required by the county to make a substantive response when assessing major SuDs planning applications.

Following the submission of a concept note regarding ‘The City as a Sponge’ work with the Netherlands/Belgium/Essex partners, the next stage of the EU funding application is due to be submitted in June.

Resilient Infrastructure – Work overview
This work is mostly led by Somerset County Council (SCC), as much of it involves road engineering to make sure people can get around at times of flooding. It requires working closely with the EA and others on various projects. It includes:
• Deep clean of the highway drainage system, including review and survey of gullies and culverts;
• Fixed road closed signs and gates for flood prone routes;
• Repairing and resurfacing damaged roads;
• Securing road access to Muchelney;
• Raising the road and increasing capacity of culverts at Beer Wall to keep the road open and help water flows.


Resilient Infrastructure – Achieved by end of February
Beer Wall: Phase I of the Beer Wall project was completed on December 19, with a 60 tonne temporary bridge lowered into place on the A372. The bridge ensured that the road stayed open throughout the winter.

Muchelney: On February 21 a 500m stretch of the Muchelney to Drayton road was re-opened, having been raised by more than a metre in places, so that it could remain open even in the event of flooding on the same scale as was experienced in 2013/14.

Site visits: Numerous information visits were organised by members of professional organisations, parish/district councils and community members, for both the Muchelney and Beer Wall sites. They provided attendees with knowledge of on-going work, and the reasons for work being undertaken.

Road closure gates: In February plans were finalised and a task order was issued for pre-placed road closure gates and signage, and for diversionary routes for roads at risk of flooding.

Minor flood alleviation management schemes: Flood alleviation work at Yeovilton was finished at the end of February. 

Minor flood alleviation management schemes were completed at eleven locations before the end of January. These included Thorney, West Monkton, West Camel, Norton St Philip, Muchelney, Greinton, East Coker, Yarde, Curry Mallet, South Petherton and Isle Abbots.

A total of 27 projects have been funded through a £200,000 Flood Mitigation Fund.

Resilient Infrastructure – Work planned / started in March
Beer wall: Phase II of the Beer Wall will begin April 7 and will last 14 weeks. The work will remove the temporary bridge, and place one set of 2 culverts where the breach was cut, with a second set placed 25m along. The road will then be reinstated. This work will ensure water flows under rather than over the A372, should the same level of flooding experienced in 2013/14 be repeated.

Road closure gates: Road gates are being manufactured and will be shortly installed. Locations for the gates will include:

-Moor Lane in North Curry;
-New Road in West Lyng;
-Cutts Lane and the A361 in East Lyng;
-Cutts Road in Athelney;
-A361 at Burrowbridge;
-Tanyard Lane at Huish Episcopi;
-Langport Road at Muchelney.

Minor flood alleviation management schemes: Work at Isle Brewers was completed in March and work at Norton Fitzwarren, Charlton Mackrell, Carhampton, North Curry and Shapwick continued through March.

Other local improvement schemes are being undertaken by parish councils in each location, reducing flooding on highways and to properties.

Building Local Resilience – Work overview
This work is being led by South Somerset District Council and the Somerset Local Authorities’ Civil Contingencies Unit. It aims to help make communities which are at risk of flooding better prepared to respond and cope with it, keeping damage and disruption to a minimum. It includes:
• Recovery support for households, businesses and farmers affected by the floods;
• Administering grants;
• Helping communities develop Local Flood Plans;
• A resilience website to help householders and communities with a range of advice;
• Establishing a Community Resilience in Somerset Project (CRISP).

Building Local Resilience – Achieved by end of February
Community Recovery and Resilience Officer: In February the Community Recovery and Resilience Officer continued working with local communities, in partnership with flood-affected communities/parish councils, and the Environment Agency, to hear and address the concerns of local residents regarding flooding.

Meetings were held with residents of Aller, Moorland, Burrowbridge and Oath to create community flood plans. Work continued with residents from Moorland, Fordgate and West Yeo to further develop their community flood plans and increase future resilience against flooding.

Somerset Levels and Moors Flood Resilience Community Response Arrangements 2014/15: Work to implement and embed these community response arrangements continues, through assisting flood-affected communities and parish councils in preparing community resilience plans. These arrangements have given communities step-by-step information on actions taken by agencies if there is serious flooding.

Severe Weather Tactical Workshop: A severe weather tactical workshop was carried out on December 12 to ensure local authorities were prepared for winter, and to make sure residents understood the correct professionals to contact. The workshop confirmed the contact and response arrangements to be used in the event of an emergency.

Community Resilience in Somerset Project (CRISP): In a meeting held in early February, the CRISP group confirmed grants to the parishes of Ilchester Mead and High Ham for resilience equipment.
Through the CRISP project, a number of agencies and authorities have come together to help communities plan and prepare, so they can recover from emergencies more effectively and quickly. Work to develop the project will progress into 2015, with agencies and community representatives invited to attend monthly CRISP meetings.

Building Local Resilience – Work planned / started in March
Community Recovery and Resilience Officer: A community meeting was held on March 5, at which residents from Moorland, Fordgate and West Yeo discussed flood resilience plans with representatives from Sedgemoor Borough Council, the Environment Agency, Somerset County Council and other partners. Invitations to all community residents were distributed. Plans for Burrowbridge, Aller and Oath are all being developed. Planning work at Chadmead and Athelney continues, work which will be intrinsically linked to the 20 Year Flood Action Plan.

Community resilience developments at Muchelney/Thorney are being expanded on.

Somerset Levels and Moors Flood Resilience Community Response Arrangements 2014/15: A key information document has been issued to members of the public via the community flood action plan groups. It provides clarity about what the local authorities will do, and what communities can do at different stages in an emergency. The Somerset Local Authorities’ Civil Contingencies Unit will carry out an evaluation of the document’s effectiveness, and if appropriate arrangements will be expanded to the remainder of the county. 

Severe Weather Tactical Workshop: The information arrangements remained live until the end of winter, and will be reviewed at the end of the season.

Community Resilience in Somerset Project (CRISP): In a meeting held in early March, the CRISP group agreed to a grant of around £2,400 for the Williton Flood Group for purchasing equipment.

Training will be provided to flood wardens, and there are opportunities to purchase equipment as required for communities. CRISP has also contributed information and advice to the Community Resilience in Somerset website.

CRISP meetings are organised monthly between emergency services, council representatives, voluntary agencies and community representatives, providing emergency resiliency equipment to communities.

Support: On March 4, a Flood Newsletter was distributed to all flood-affected residents on the Levels and Moors, and also to relevant volunteer and sector agencies. The newsletter detailed the Flood Re scheme that the Association of British Insurance is working hard to try and get up and running by summer 2015. The newsletter also contains contact details that residents can use to obtain assistance when seeking flood insurance.

Funding and Delivery of Linked, Long Term Flood Risk Management and Resilient Infrastructure – Work overview
Not all the actions in the FAP have funding identified. This work is being led by the EA and will initially focus on assessing and estimating the wide ranging impacts and losses as a result of flooding on the Somerset Levels and Moors during the winter of 2013/14. The results will help build the business case for further long term investment, which may be delivered by a range of organisations with infrastructure interests on the Somerset Levels and Moors. It includes:
• Assessing the economic impact of various severities of flooding and longer duration flooding;
• Establishing potential funding options for investment in and maintenance of flood defences;
• Working with stakeholders to identify, fund and deliver infrastructure solutions.

Funding and Delivery of Linked, Long Term Flood Risk Management and Resilient Infrastructure - Achieved by end of February
Economic Impact Assessment report: The Economic Impact Assessment (EIA) report has been finalised and submitted to Flood Action Plan partners, following feedback from all partners and key stakeholders.

Funding and Delivery of Linked, Long Term Flood Risk Management and Resilient Infrastructure – Work planned / started in March
Economic Impact Assessment report: The EIA report will be released nationally following the May elections.

Diary Dates

Tuesday July 22 – SRA Board Meeting: The third Somerset Rivers Authority Board Meeting will be held on July 22, with relevant papers to be uploaded by July 14. Visit here to see more details.

Somerset Community Emergency Contacts: Civil Contingencies Officer Lesley Knight has contacted every town and parish council in Somerset, and has requested three or four people from within the local community who would be prepared to act as emergency contacts with local authorities during an emergency. To learn more about this project please contact Lesley at lbknight@somerset.gov.uk.

Coffee mornings: Every Wednesday at Moorland and Fordgate Village Hall 11- 1pm. All welcome. Burrowbridge Coffee Mornings at Burrowbridge School 11am-12.30pm, every other week starting March 31. All welcome.

Flood Plan Meetings: The following flood resilience groups will be meeting from March 23, working with Stewart Granger, Flood Action Plan Community Resilience and Recovery Officer, and Vanessa Leavy, of the Environment Agency, who are assisting groups to build resilience plans and identify local needs: Moorland, Fordgate, West Yeo, Burrowbridge and Oath. Group meetings are held locally in evenings – please contact Stewart Granger at SGranger@somerset.gov.uk for more details. Please contact Stewart if you are unable to attend or would like further information regarding flood resilience groups.

If you would like to get in touch please contact us at sra@somerset.gov.uk or tel: 01823 355111
The Flood Action Plan is now overseen by the Somerset Rivers Authority and can be contacted on the above.