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Work begins on major flood protection schemes

Work has started on two key flood protection schemes on the Somerset Levels and Moors.

The schemes on the A372 at Beer Wall and in Muchelney are being carried out as part of the 20 Year Flood Action Plan and should reduce the likelihood of flooding and minimise the impacts of any flooding that does occur.

“It has taken a huge amount of work and cooperation between organisations and agencies to bring this work to this stage so quickly,” said Councillor John Osman, Chairman of the Flood Action Plan Leaders Implementation Group and Leader of Somerset County Council.

“To see work starting on these schemes is a clear sign of the importance that we and other agencies are placing on the Flood Action Plan. The Plan cannot promise to stop flooding, but its actions can reduce its frequency, duration and severity.”

Road closures on both sites came into effect today and are expected to last up to 11 weeks, depending on factors such as the weather. Multiple schemes and road closures are happening to give the projects the best chance of being completed before the end of the year and motorists are asked to be patient while the work is underway.

“No single action will solve the problem,” added Cllr Osman. “Some of the solutions are long-term and we need to look at the catchment as a whole. But these schemes represent an important steps in the right direction.”

The Beer Wall scheme will see four new culverts installed at Beer Wall to the east of Langacre Rhyne, which runs alongside the Sowy under the A372. Last winter the road was flooded at this spot for several weeks and then closed to accommodate emergency pumping. This first phase of the scheme will see a trench cut into the A372 where the culverts will later be installed. A temporary bridge will span the trench so that the road remains open for the winter.

In Muchelney 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.

John Rowlands, Environment Agency Asset Performance Team Leader, said: “All the schemes are part of the Somerset Levels and Moors Flood Action Plan being delivered by a range of agencies and illustrate the amount of cooperation and work that has been undertaken between all the organisations involved.

“This is the first stage in a series of works designed to reduce flood risk in the Sowy and Kings Sedgemoor Drain river systems. We are working on a range of possible options for the wider improvement scheme. Some of the work suggested is long term and looks at the catchment as a whole. This work underlines the importance of and commitment to delivering the Flood Action Plan.”

Simon White, Business Director, Skanska, said: “Skanska is delighted to be delivering these schemes on behalf of Somerset County Council. As the council’s highway maintenance contractor our teams were at the forefront of the flood response earlier this year and we know all too well the significant impact they had on our local communities.

“We are proud to be building these schemes and playing our part in improving the future management of the levels and moors. We look forward to working with the communities to try and minimise disruption as much as possible during the schemes”

All the schemes are part of the Somerset Levels and Moors Flood Action Plan being delivered by a range of agencies, coordinated by County Council. The plan will guide water and land management policies and investment on the Levels and Moors for the next 20 years.

•Phase two of the A372 Beer Wall scheme will happen in the spring when weather improves and will see the culverts installed and the road reinstated over them.
•Diversions are in place for the A372 and Muchelney schemes from today (29 Sept). Work also started today on an Environment Agency flood scheme to protect homes in Aller, requiring the closure of Aller Drove for up to six weeks. The impacts on school transport have been identified and will be catered for. You can find details of the road closures and diversion routes here: http://www.somerset.gov.uk/roads-parking-and-transport/road-closures/road-closures-within-south-somerset/
•An unrelated resurfacing scheme on the A39 at Cossington will see the road closed between 7pm and 7am for five nights, starting today (29 Sept). Temporary traffic signals will be in place during the day. An official diversion route will be advertised, taking into account the road closures at Beer Wall and Aller Drove.
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
•Natural England
•Sedgemoor District Council
•Somerset Internal Drainage Boards
•South Somerset District Council
•Taunton Deane Borough Council
•Mendip District Council

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.