SRA Annual Report 2018-19: Building Local Resilience (W5)

2018-19 Summary

The SRA part-funded Somerset’s first Resilience Day, a flood insurance survey on the Somerset Levels & Moors and a pilot household resilience survey in Misterton near Crewkerne. It helped to set up the West Moor Futures Group and began work on Wet Moor, Tealham and Tadham Moor, gave communities grants for equipment and backed Somerset’s new Co-Adapt project tackling the water-related effects of climate change (flooding and drought).

One of the six main objectives of Somerset’s 20 Year Flood Action Plan is to “Increase resilience to flooding for families, agriculture, business, communities and wildlife”. Hence this workstream. It aims to make people better informed and equipped, so they can better protect themselves against flooding and recover more quickly afterwards. It also aims to encourage discussions about flooding and water management issues across Somerset, and particularly matters concerning adaptation and sustainability.

Somerset Resilience Day

This is why the SRA part-funded the first Somerset Resilience Day in October. More than 80 volunteers, wardens, councillors and community leaders travelled to North Petherton for a day of talks, workshops and displays.

Subjects included riparian responsibilities (what people who own watercourses are supposed to do) and the art of setting up a flood group – and keeping it going.

A key feature was giving people chance to learn from each other’s experiences.

BBC Radio Somerset broadcast interviews with participants.

Feedback from attendees included: “Excellent – well worthwhile. Good calibre presenters, articulate and authoritative” … “Thanks for the massive amount of work in organising the event and for all the staff of the numerous agencies that attended. Makes us feel there is real help available.”

The event was organised by the Environment Agency and Somerset Prepared and 10 other agencies and organisations were also involved with different elements of the day.

Somerset Prepared is a partnership devoted to helping Somerset communities be better prepared for emergencies. Members: Environment Agency, Somerset Civil Contingencies Unit (CCU), Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service, Avon & Somerset Police, Somerset County Council, Safe South West, Rotary International, Somerset Rivers Authority, Community Council for Somerset, South West Ambulance Service, British Red Cross.

Household resilience exercise in Misterton

In November, villagers in Misterton near  Crewkerne took part in a household resilience survey.  This was  organised and funded by the SRA in partnership with Somerset Prepared, Misterton’s lively parish resilience team, and a willing bunch of local Rotary volunteers. The centre of Misterton was flooded in February 2016, and there have been various other emergencies in the past. It was therefore judged to be a good place to start exploring ways of getting people more interested in household resilience planning. That is, in thinking ahead and making a few simple, practical arrangements to help people keep themselves and their homes safe in the event of possible emergencies. After a four-page leaflet went to all households in the village in early November, Rotary members called at every property to offer further advice and gather information. Following on from this pilot project, other communities across Somerset are to be visited.

Flood insurance survey

Also in November-December 2018, a flood insurance survey  was carried out for the SRA by the Community Council for Somerset. Lack of affordable flood insurance was one of many worries faced by households in Somerset after the floods of 2013- 14, and one of the survey’s aims was to find out if this was still a problem in some of the worst-hit communities. A particular focus was on what difference the setting-up of Flood Re in 2016 had made.

Questionnaires were sent to properties in Athelney, Burrowbridge, East Lyng, Fordgate, Moorland, Muchelney, Oath, Thorney, West Yeo and Westonzoyland, and county councillors engaged with residents in Chadmead and North Curry. People elsewhere in Somerset were able to get involved with the survey if they wanted to. Results will be used to help the SRA decide what further courses of action, if any, should be pursued.

Grants for equipment and training

The SRA funds grants for equipment and training given to Somerset communities by Somerset Prepared. Five places benefitted in 2018-19: Curry Mallet and High Ham in South Somerset, Hatch Beauchamp, Milverton and Sampford Brett (near Williton) in what is now the Somerset West and Taunton Council area.

The two biggest grants went to Milverton and High Ham. Milverton Parish Council was given a contribution towards a diesel generator, torches, foil blankets, first aid kits and training, snow shovels, rechargeable floodlights, hi viz jackets and walkie talkies. The equipment will be used by the 40 or so volunteers registered to help with Milverton’s Emergency Plan. It will also improve the resilience of the village’s Designated Place of Safety.

High Ham’s flood defence committee was given a contribution towards the costs of hydro sacks, hydro snakes, rechargeable LED floodlights, hi viz jackets and Personal Protective Equipment. The lower areas of High Ham parish are at serious risk of flooding. A recent flood defence report identified the need for more equipment to enable the community to be more resilient.

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