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How to contact Somerset Rivers Authority - and what happens when you do

How Somerset Rivers Authority will deal with your query or proposal

This is a guide to how Somerset Rivers Authority deals with general questions and particularly with requests for help in solving problems to do with flooding. One aim is to give you an idea of how Somerset Rivers Authority works, so that you can write your query or proposal to help make sure it’s dealt with as successfully as possible.
 
Somerset Rivers Authority is a partnership between Somerset County Council (the Lead Local Flood Authority), the five district councils of South Somerset, Taunton Deane, West Somerset, Sedgemoor and Mendip, the Axe Brue Drainage Board and the Parrett Internal Drainage Board, the Environment Agency and Natural England, and the Wessex Regional Flood and Coastal Committee. All these Flood Risk Management Authorities (FRMAs) have members on the SRA’s Board, and the Board decides what work the SRA does.

The SRA has a big programme of work lined up for 2016/17, on nearly 50 projects across the county. You can find out much more about these on the Flood Risk Work page on this website. Projects are prioritised as part of the SRA’s 5 Year Programme. This is a long list of works scrutinised and given initial rankings by the SRA’s Technical Group.

The Technical Group is made up of experts from different SRA partners and other associated bodies, such as Wessex Water, the RSPB and CRISP (the Community Resilience in Somerset Partnership). Technical Group members combine decades of relevant experience with an extensive and detailed knowledge of Somerset. The SRA’s Technical Group plays an important role in assessing queries and proposals.

A key principle behind all SRA work is that it has to deliver an extra level of flood protection work for families and communities, something additional to what is already being done by Somerset’s existing Flood Risk Management Authorities.

Another important function of the SRA is to attack difficult issues. For example, the SRA uses its strengths as a new kind of partnership to get different authorities working together in ways that did not exist before.

The SRA also takes great notice of the six priorities for action in Somerset’s 20 Year Flood Action Plan (FAP). The FAP is overseen and co-ordinated by the SRA. Its six priorities are:

  • Reduce frequency, depth and duration of flooding
  • Maintain access for communities and businesses
  • Increase resilience to flooding
  • Protect the special characteristics of the Somerset Levels & Moors  
  • Ensure strategic transport connectivity, both within Somerset and through to the South West peninsula
  • Promote business confidence and growth    
People sometimes approach the SRA with ideas that have been rejected by other authorities because the benefits were insignificant or not enough to justify the cost. If other authorities have decided that a project is lacking, it is unlikely that the SRA will take a different view, particularly as the SRA – as we shall see – consults with those same authorities.

In short, if a proposal is going to be added to an SRA worklist, it has to pass a number of tests. This involves procedures which are now outlined below.

How to contact the SRA – and what happens when you do

The three best ways to contact the SRA are by email, phone or letter.

Email: sra@somerset.gov.uk

Phone: 01823-355111
 
Letter: Somerset Rivers Authority, C3, County Hall, Taunton, TA1 4DY

Email is preferred. If you can let us have a contact phone number, that’s useful. Sometimes we may wish to ring you up to find out more about a situation.

It helps you – and us – if you can make your thoughts and questions as clear as possible, and supply relevant supporting facts. If we can see quickly who is best placed to deal with your query and how, then the whole process may be speeded up.

When your query is received, you will be sent an acknowledgement.
 
Correspondence tends to fall into two areas: either general queries about the SRA, its work and funding, or about specific flooding issues. Different sorts of queries are dealt with in different ways.

GENERAL QUERIES

If it is obvious which Flood Risk Management Authority deals with the subject being asked about, or clear which category of SRA work it falls into, then your query is passed to the relevant people. They look at the matter and inform the SRA of their views. The SRA then reviews the matter, decides if further action is required, and replies to you.

Matters that are not so clear go to the SRA’s Technical Group, which meets once a month. Members then take a collective view or decide who does need to take a matter forward. Once it has been dealt with either way, then the SRA will again review, decide and reply.       

FLOODING ISSUES

The SRA scrutinises queries so as to determine what exactly is being asked – and therefore what needs to be answered. (This is one reason why we appreciate thoughts and questions that are clearly expressed!) Sometimes we work with the Lead Local Flood Authority (Somerset County Council) to help us decide who is best placed to take a matter forward.

Process for dealing with issues where responsibilities are clear
If it is clear who should deal with a query, it goes for investigation. This examination will determine whether work could and should be funded by one of Somerset’s Flood Risk Management Authorities (such as the Environment Agency, Internal Drainage Board, county or district council, etc). If work could and should be done by an FRMA, the SRA is told and the SRA then lets you know. Note that many factors can affect the length of time that it takes to properly investigate a flooding issue.

If a proposal is not fundable by an FRMA, then it goes to the SRA’s Technical Group for classification, analysis and prioritisation. Members assess how much need there is there for a proposed scheme and how it compares (in terms of need, possible value for money, benefits it delivers) to other schemes already in the SRA’s 5 Year Plan. If it’s decided that a proposal is one the SRA cannot support, then the responsible FRMA prepares a statement explaining why and this is sent to you.

If a proposal is one that the SRA believes warrants further investigation, you will be sent an email telling you that it is being further investigated (for technical and financial viability).
 
If there turns out to be no viable solution, the Technical Group is told of this outcome, and the SRA will then let you know.

If there is a viable solution, then the FRMA best placed to deliver it will submit a proposal for funding. Funding has to be approved by the SRA’s Board, which meets every three months (although in time-sensitive situations, some works can be given the go-ahead within a set of strictly defined limits and procedures). You will be told the outcome of this process.

Process for dealing with issues where responsibilities are not clear
If it is not clear which strand of the SRA’s work a proposal fits into, if there are a number of Flood Risk Management Authorities involved or if it is not clear  which Flood Risk Management Authority should deal with it, then the matter goes to Technical Group. Technical Group members then follow their normal procedure of classification, analysis and assessment of priority and need, and they assign responsibility for leading an investigation to an FRMA.

If it’s decided that a proposal is one that the SRA cannot support, then the identified lead FRMA will prepare a statement on behalf of the SRA explaining why and this will be sent to you.

If a proposal is one that the SRA does want to take forward, the lead FRMA will coordinate an investigation and you will be sent an email telling you that that the matter is being further investigated (for its technical and financial viability).
 
If there turns out to be no viable solution, the Technical Group is told of this outcome, and the SRA will then let you know.

If there is a viable solution, then the responsible FRMA will submit a proposal for funding. Funding has to be approved by the SRA Board, which meets every three months (although in time-sensitive situations, some works can be given the go-ahead within a set of strictly defined limits and procedures). You will be told the outcome of this process.

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.