The village of Muchelney will gather tomorrow to help Somerset County Council reopen the raised road that should stop it being cut-off by any future flooding.
A 500 metre stretch of road has been raised, by more than a metre in places, to keep it open, even in the event of flooding on the same scale as last winter. It’s an engineering project undertaken as part of the multi-agency Flood Action Plan, funded by the Department for Transport, and has been completed in roughly half the usual time.
Although most of the village escaped flooding, Muchelney was cut-off for around ten weeks when all four of the roads into the village were submerged last winter. The County Council organised a support boat to ferry residents from the village to nearby Langport for more than nine weeks.
Cllr John Osman, Leader of Somerset County Council and Chairman of the Flood Action Plan, will perform the official opening ceremony tomorrow (Saturday 21 February). He will be joined by villagers of all ages and members of the Devon & Somerset Fire and Rescue Service who crewed the boat.
“The reopening is the culmination of a huge amount of hard work by a lot of people in many different organisations and my thanks go to everyone involved,” said Cllr Osman.
“Muchelney is a thriving community, home to more than 200 people of all ages including doctors, nurses, builders, teachers and schoolchildren. It’s also home to more than a dozen businesses ranging from a caravan site to a cattery, a pottery to farm shop.
“Last winter’s flooding caused a great deal of disruption, fear and concern for the village and this project should ensure that does not happen again. I thank villagers for their patience while the work has been taking place and hope they can join us in celebrating and looking to the future now this landmark scheme is complete.”
The reopening ceremony will include a ribbon cutting and popping the cork on some locally-produced cider and apple juice, kindly provided by The Somerset Cider Brandy Company. After the ceremony, local schoolchildren are due to walk the length of the road to be the first to use the raised route.
The scheme which started in September has involved the work of more than 100 different people and more than 1,400 ‘person days’ of work. More than 1,100 lorry movements were needed to move materials, including 22,000 tonnes of stone, 2,000 tonnes of topsoil and 2,300 tonnes of macadam.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “The new raised road will be crucial to Muchelney’s resilience against flooding. Since last year’s wet winter, the government has committed £22 million to ensure Somerset remains accessible for residents, businesses and visitors in the event of severe weather.”
The road raising has been carried out by the Council’s highways contractor, Skanska. Simon White, the company’s Business Director, said: “Skanska is delighted to have been involved in this momentous project. In just six months our team has designed and constructed this major piece of new infrastructure for the village of Muchelney.
“We are proud to have worked on a project that will make such a difference to the lives of the local community and thank them for making us so welcome during our time here”
The raised section of road, from Muchelney towards Drayton, is due to be reopened at around 3pm.
The organisations working to deliver the Flood Action Plan are:
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Somerset County Council
The Environment Agency
Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group
Sedgemoor District Council
Somerset Internal Drainage Boards
South Somerset District Council
Taunton Deane Borough Council
Mendip District Council