SRA Annual Report 2020-21: Progress against Flood Action Plan targets

The Somerset Levels & Moors Flood Action Plan was published in March 2014, at the end of that winter’s devastating floods. When Somerset Rivers Authority was launched on 31 January 2015 the Flood Action Plan was widened to include the whole of Somerset.

The SRA oversees the Flood Action Plan. It has six main objectives, stretching over 20 years:

1) Reduce the frequency, depth and duration of flooding.

2) Maintain access for communities and business.

3) Increase resilience to flooding for families, agriculture, businesses, communities, and wildlife.

4) Make the most of the special characteristics of Somerset (with internationally important biodiversity, environment and cultural heritage).

5) Ensure strategic road and rail connectivity, both within Somerset and through the county to the South West peninsula.

6) Promote business confidence and growth.

All actions in the SRA’s annual Enhanced Programmes are scored and ranked against these objectives.


This section describes progress against key targets in Somerset’s 20 Year Flood Action Plan, as set out in the Plan’s Executive Summary.


We must: Dredge the first 8km of the Rivers Tone and Parrett

What we have achieved: 4km of the River Tone upstream of Burrowbridge, and 4km of the River Parrett downstream of Burrowbridge, were dredged back to their 1960s’ river profiles in 2014 by the Environment Agency. Since 2014, the SRA has funded more dredging, combined with silt monitoring: see pages 8-10.

River Sowy – King’s Sedgemoor drain enhancements

We must: Increase the capacity of the Sowy/King’s Sedgemoor Drain (KSD) recognising that this solution will reduce the cost of pumping during future flooding events.

What we have achieved: Over the winter of 2013-14, the A372 at Beer Wall near Othery was flooded for weeks and then closed for expensive emergency pumping. Subsequently, Somerset County Council raised and repaired the road, and installed four massive culverts to allow more water to go underneath it. The Environment Agency, acting for the SRA, then created two new offshoot channels for the Sowy and Langacre to flow through the new culverts. Two tilting weirs were also installed, to enable more flexible use of the Sowy, and allow pumping stations to be operated earlier.

Other works have included the removal of obstructive masonry from beneath Dunball Old Bridge to improve the capacity and flow of water through the final stretch of the KSD, improvements to Chedzoy Flap to better protect farmland around Chedzoy and Andersea, and de-silting to increase channel capacity at Parchey and Dunball.

For details of 2020-21 works at Egypt’s Clyse, Moorlinch and Westmoor, and of Sowy-KSD works due in 2021, see pages 11-15 of this report.

Flood management and infrastructure solutions

We must: Invest in flood management and infrastructure solutions having developed a better understanding of their effectiveness.

What we have achieved: Somerset Rivers Authority has so far approved 182 actions across Somerset, many including a large number of different elements. In a summary such as this, one example from the last year may serve to show the SRA’s approach: he use in January 2021 of water injection dredging techniques for the pioneer dredging of 2.2km (1.37miles) of the River Parrett down to the M5. Work out on the river took 10 days. But that was only possible because of the “better understanding” gained from more than four years of trials, monitoring and evaluation of previous water injection dredging operations along the Parrett.

Bridgwater Tidal Barrier

We must: Accelerate the construction of a Barrier or Sluice at Bridgwater, with the objective of achieving delivery by 2024.

What we have achieved: The delivery date previously lined up for a Bridgwater Tidal Barrier in the Parrett Estuary Flood Risk Management Strategy was between 2030 and 2050, ideally 2046. The SRA has accelerated the Barrier’s progress, by using Growth Deal money from the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership to help the Environment Agency and Sedgemoor District Council reach the point of submitting an application for the Transport and Works Act Order (TWAO) that is required to build the Barrier. The TWAO application went in to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) just before Christmas in 2019. A decision is awaited. For more details, see pages 19 and 61.

Somerset Rivers Authority

We must: Establish a Somerset Rivers Board that has greater control and responsibility for work to maintain and improve water management on the Levels.

What we have achieved: Somerset Rivers Authority was launched on 31 January 2015 as a partnership of Somerset’s existing Flood Risk Management Authorities (FRMAs). The SRA covers the whole of Somerset, not just the Levels. Partners take on responsibilities for extra works, above and beyond their usual activities. Through the SRA, partners collaborate to maintain and improve water management across the county.

The Local Government Finance Settlement 2016-17 included the provision of
alternative notional amounts for council tax levels so that pending the establishment through legislation of the SRA as a precepting body, Somerset County Council and all Somerset district councils could set a shadow precept of up to the equivalent of a 1.25% increase in council tax for the purpose of funding the SRA. While legislation is still pending, the SRA is hosted by Somerset County Council, and has no independent legal status.

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