A new report from Adapting the Levels shows people on the Somerset Levels wanting more action on climate change.
Particularly strong support is expressed for more natural solutions to flooding and drought.
Local people’s ideas include creating ponds, planting trees, and building woody dams
from the hills
around the Levels
to the Levels themselves.
Many people agreed that farmers should be offered the chance to earn new kinds of subsidies, for public goods such as storing floodwater on their land, locking-up carbon and improving wildlife habitats.
Leadership and collaboration is called for. One participant’s comment was: “Working together has to be the way forward. This is the biggest challenge we all face.”
Adapting to Climate Change on the Somerset Levels
The full 44-page report is called Adapting to Climate Change on the Somerset Levels. It can be read and downloaded, along with a leaflet, at https://www.adaptingthelevels.com/feedback
Both documents summarise the results of two busy public drop-ins held in Wedmore and Langport and four workshops held with parish, district and county councillors. Local farmers also contributed. All events were held before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Among the 330 people attending the drop-ins was Cllr Clare Paul (pictured below), Somerset County Council Cabinet Member for Public Health & Climate Change and a substitute Board member for Somerset Rivers Authority.
Cllr Paul said: “Initiatives like Adapting the Levels can help our communities come together and take action, making it possible for us to minimise the impacts of climate change and take full advantage of the opportunities available, ensuring Somerset is strong and resilient for generations to come.
“I was delighted at the level of attendance at the events, which shows how this is so significant for those of us who live and work on the Levels, now and in the future.
“The drop-ins were informative and thought-provoking, and I thank all those involved with this.”
About Adapting the Levels
Partners in Adapting the Levels are Somerset County Council, the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group SouthWest (FWAG SW) and Somerset Wildlife Trust.
The project is funded by the EU’s Interreg 2 Seas European Regional Development Fund and Somerset Rivers Authority.
Unaffected by Brexit, it will run until March 2023 as part of a wider EU initiative called Co-Adapt.
Co-Adapt involves 12 partners in four countries: Britain, France, the Netherlands and Belgium. The other British projects are Porlock Vale Streams, led by the National Trust in West Somerset, and Connecting the Culm, which is led by the Blackdown Hills AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) team and covers parts of Somerset and Devon.
93% of respondents at Adapting the Levels events (58 people out of 62 sampled) agreed or strongly agreed that nature-based options should be used to help solve problems of flooding and drought.
Lots of ideas were suggested for different places.
Ponds, trees and water butts for gardens.
Mass tree planting, dew ponds and leaky dams for the hills.
Temporary floodwater storage for farmland or amenity land used for more leisurely purposes.
Since the devastating floods of 2013-14, hundreds of small-scale Natural Flood Management moves have been made across Somerset through projects such as Hills to Levels and Triple C. Both of these projects have been part-funded by Somerset Rivers Authority. Triple C is also funded by the EU’s Interreg 2 Seas programme. The three Cs stand for Climate resilient, Community-based and Catchment planning and management.
With coronavirus pandemic restrictions in force, it will not be possible to repeat the kind of events held successfully before.
Instead, people will be offered interesting ways to get involved online. Possibilities will include a tool which people can use to create adaptation plans for the future, and a mobile app encouraging ‘real world’ local tours with videos of experts guiding the way.
Adapting the Levels’ aim is to create a shared vision for the future that will help Somerset adapt to climate change.