Environment Secretary Owen Paterson was in Somerset yesterday to receive an update on the Levels and Moors Flood Action Plan.
His latest visit to County Hall underlined the continued Government commitment to the Plan that aims to reduce the impact and risk of flooding in extreme weather.
The Plan is being coordinated by Somerset County Council and delivered by a wide range of partners. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was updated on the work underway including:
•Dredging and river management – there are six dredging teams at work, some seven days a week, and the programme is on target to be completed by October.
•Infrastructure projects – work is progressing on plans for a ring bank at Thorney, road raising at Muchelney and work to improve the capacity of water flow under the A372 at Beer Wall.
•The proposed Parrett sluice – a workshop was held recently to review options with further design and feasibility work commissioned.
Work is also advancing well on the design of key highway upgrades, and on identifying priorities for a further phase of dredging.
Among the other actions to reduce the risk of flooding is a proposal to create a Somerset Rivers Board (SRB). This will be a way for local partners to take more responsibility for flood risk and water management across the County.
The Minister was told that options under review include organisational structures, legislative requirements, and funding models. Proposals being considered include an appropriate catchment-wide funding mechanism to generate additional funds.
The Flood Action Programme is being led by a Leaders Implementation Group, involving a wide range of partners. A further meeting is due in early July and it is anticipated that this meeting will sign off proposals for the Rivers Board for wider consultation.
After the visit, Owen Paterson said: “I saw first-hand the devastation the flooding caused in Somerset last winter. That is why I commissioned urgent work from those at a local level to identify how we can better protect Somerset communities.
“I’m pleased with the progress so far, in particular the dredging of the rivers Parrett and Tone. This is a long-term plan and we will continue to work with local partners to ensure we have a more resilient Somerset in the future.”
County Councillor David Hall, Deputy Leader of Somerset County Council, Somerset, said: “The rate of progress now on the Flood Action Plan gives us real encouragement, but we all acknowledge that this must be only the start of a long term programme, with sustainable funding the key. The Secretary of State’s personal commitment gives us real encouragement and confidence for the future.”