SRA Annual Report 2019-20: Beckington surface and foul water investigation

The historic village of Beckington near Frome has long suffered flooding problems. Almost every possible aspect of these has now been investigated for Somerset Rivers Authority. Only a small number of inaccessible features – such as old stone-lined culverts going underneath houses with no manhole covers – escaped attention.

Investigations were led for the SRA by Mendip District Council’s Flood Risk Consultant, working in collaboration with Wessex Water, Somerset County Council’s Highways Department and the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group SouthWest (FWAG SW). Partners and contractors have surveyed land, watercourses, wells, roads and drainage systems around Beckington. Residents’ co-operation has been invaluable.

An Options Appraisal Report is now being written, and a bid for further SRA funding is expected, so that moves can be made to tackle problems from different angles. The village centre would especially benefit from flood risk reduction works.

Progress in 2019-20

Surveys of Beckington were previously carried out for Wessex Water and Somerset County Council’s Highways Department (SCC Highways). Their findings were collated for the SRA, but they did not fully show how rainwater and run-off are conveyed through Beckington, or how different areas are – or are not– connected.

Additional surveys have therefore been completed in and around the village, to identify opportunities for improvements, and also to spot potential mis-connections that could be fixed to boost the foul sewer system. Activities included:

A walk-over survey and initial assessment of the different routes down which surface water can flow was carried out around Beckington. A follow-on watercourse survey was carried out with a specialist consultant in September 2019.

Mendip’s Flood Risk Consultant Caroline Murray of CALM Engineering (left) with Jane Moon of Hydromorph, on a survey of Beckington.

Experts in land and natural flood management techniques from FWAG SW undertook initial consultations with landowners to ascertain their appetite for taking part in schemes to slow down the flow of water from farmland upstream of the main drainage routes into Beckington. This work is ongoing.

Detailed CCTV surveys of Beckington’s underground surface water system took place over 13 days in April and May 2019. These surveys were funded by the SRA.

In June 2019, the project team had initial talks with Wessex Water about areas where surface water was mis-connected into the foul sewer network. They picked out areas that might require revisiting during a final ‘mop up’ survey to prove connections to the foul sewer from areas that had been identified but were not accessible by camera. They also discussed periodic sewer blockages caused by wet wipes and fat deposits.

In August 2019, SCC Highways upgraded parts of the road drainage system identified as problematic in 2016. All road-edge gullies were thoroughly cleaned. The project team and Highways also identified several buried manholes and inaccessible highway drains that had previously prevented a full survey of the surface water system. Improvements were made at these sites so they could be covered in a final ‘mop up’ survey.

In November 2019, the project team received A36 drainage details from Highways England. Ongoing discussions are focused on reducing the volume of surface water draining into Beckington.

A final ‘mop up’ survey was undertaken in February 2020. The results are being analysed and mapped for the SRA as part of the production of a Beckington Drainage Review. In addition, Wessex Water are considering what the better understanding of Beckington’s drainage network that has been acquired could mean for the village’s sewer system.


Every year Somerset Rivers Authority aims to fund a small number of investigations.

The SRA looks particularly for issues that lie beyond the scope of what other individual organisations can do on their own – or for issues that fall between the gaps of what other organisations are doing – or for some combination of the two.

As a co-ordinating body, the SRA can get different organisations working together as partners in ways they would do not otherwise.

Niggly problems do not get neglected; better results follow.

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