What will Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA) do with its council tax and other local funding for 2022-23?
Where the SRA’s local funding comes from
For 2022-23, Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA) will get £2,940,800 from Somerset council tax, and £20,000 contributed by the Axe Brue and Parrett Internal Drainage Boards (IDBs).
That means the SRA’s total local funding for this year is £2,960,800.
A share of council tax is levied for the SRA by Somerset County Council and the four district councils: Mendip, Sedgemoor, Somerset West and Taunton, and South Somerset.
The SRA’s council tax charge has not increased since 2016, when it was introduced.
Extra funding for SRA activities 2022-23
In 2022-23, the SRA’s budget for its Enhanced Programme is being topped up with £432,200 redeployed from the SRA’s contingency budget.
What the SRA’s local funding is spent on
Projects and activities
For 2022-23, £3,089,000 has been allocated to 21 different projects and activities across Somerset. These are all listed and described down below. See Contents – Quick Links.
SRA activities stretch across the county. Because different parts of Somerset have different needs, and it makes sense to tackle different problems in a variety of ways, SRA activities lead to hundreds of improvements of different kinds.
Not all activities are expected to be completed within one year.
All works are part of what is called the SRA’s Enhanced Programme. This gives Somerset extra flood protection and greater local resilience, in line with the objectives of Somerset’s 20 Year Flood Action Plan, drawn up during the devastating floods of 2014.
Staff and running costs
Staff and other necessary costs account for £304,000 of the SRA’s budget for 2022-23.
£219,000 has been budgeted for four full-time staff and one part-time Technical Advisor working two days a week, plus overheads.
£85,000 has been budgeted for other costs, namely professional support services (legal, financial, audit and governance), an allowance for advice from Natural England on matters such as regulatory compliance, and small SRA projects and studies.
More information about all of the above subjects can be found in reports prepared for the SRA Board meeting on Friday 4 March 2022, when Board members approved the SRA’s 2022-23 Enhanced Programme and budget.
Work on some activities for which funding was allocated by the SRA in previous years will also be done in 2022-23. For example, on behalf of the SRA, in November 2018 the Parrett IDB signed a 5-year contract with water injection dredging specialists Van Oord, so maintenance dredging of the River Parrett is expected to happen during winter 2022-23.
Contents – Quick Links
There are 21 different projects and activities in the SRA’s 2022-23 Enhanced Programme.
Use the Quick Links below to find out more about individual elements, and the Back to Top arrows to return to this main list of Contents.
Bridgwater Tidal Barrier
Bridgwater Tidal Barrier is a major £100million project led by the Environment Agency and Sedgemoor District Council. Designed to help protect more than 11,300 homes and 1,500 businesses, it has three main elements: a tidal barrier on the River Parrett at Chilton Trinity, 2.67 miles (4.3km) of new flood defence banks and 1.74 miles (2.8km) of raised banks downstream at Chilton Trinity, Combwich and Pawlett, and fish and eel passage improvements at 12 sites upstream of the barrier, reaching into the districts of South Somerset and Somerset West and Taunton.
Most funding for this major project will come from central government major project funding. However, some local match funding is required to secure the national funding. Somerset Rivers Authority is making a local contribution in recognition of the important role that Bridgwater Tidal Barrier will fulfil in protecting Somerset residents, homes and businesses.
Dunball Sluice refurbishment
A £3.575million project led by the Environment Agency to refurbish Dunball Sluice, an important structure used to control flows of water from the River Sowy-King’s Sedgemoor Drain system into the River Parrett north of Bridgwater. The sluice is in a poor state of repair, with numerous defects. Part-funding from Somerset Rivers Authority will help the Environment Agency to extend the working life of Dunball Sluice by 35 years.
This project at Dunball Sluice will complement the SRA’s ongoing River Sowy-King’s Sedgemoor Drain Enhancements Scheme (Phase One). It will benefit homes, businesses, roads, infrastructure, farmland and internationally important sites for wildlife across a large area of the Somerset Levels and Moors.
Somerset desilting structures
Desilting bridges and culverts, and re-aligning channels close to highways structures, improves the flow of watercourses, and increases the volumes of water they can carry. This reduces the risks of flooding for roads, nearby homes and land. Whole systems can work more efficiently when watercourse “bottle necks” are removed.
Sites across Somerset that would benefit from de-silting are identified by Somerset County Council’s highways department through the use of records kept by local highways officers, or concerns raised by other authorities or members of the public. Somerset Rivers Authority funding is provided as de-silting structures is not done as a routine operation by Somerset County Council.
A scheme to restore the capacity of a stream extending out of New Rhyne near The Drive in Burnham-on-Sea. Funding from Somerset Rivers Authority will enable the Axe Brue Internal Drainage Board (IDB) to desilt around 110m of the stream, which is currently struggling to cope with heavy culverted flows from roads, and properties built in the 1960s. The aim is to reduce flood risks for around 30 properties and local businesses including a petrol station, caravan repairer and caravan dealer.
East Brent asset improvements
A scheme to help protect homes, businesses and farmland in and around East Brent. Funding from Somerset Rivers Authority will enable the Axe Brue Internal Drainage Board (IDB) to replace and upgrade unstable stone-filled cage defences along Brocks Pill rhyne, East Brent’s main watercourse for drainage. Beneficiaries will include 12 homes and a holiday cottage business, Brent Area Medical Centre, the B3140, and around 20 hectares of agricultural land.
Hills to Levels: Somerset Land Management and Natural Flood Management
Somerset Rivers Authority continues to fund the biggest range of natural flood management (NFM) activities in the UK, as part of Hills to Levels. Plans for 2022-23 include more schemes in the Mendip District Council area, following on from earlier SRA-funded sub-catchment analyses across Mendip.
There are seven main elements, all to be delivered for the SRA by the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group SouthWest (FWAG SW), except for the NFM schemes in Mendip (see below) for which Mendip District Council will take responsibility, while working in partnership with FWAG SW.
1 NFM schemes countywide: Design and implementation of 20 small-scale and natural flood management capital works to hold back water in upper catchments and reduce peak flows. Some parishes are being trained to identify possibilities for NFM measures and helped to implement them, for example in Cheddon Fitzpaine, West Monkton and parts of West Somerset.
2 NFM schemes in Mendip: Four nature-based schemes in sub-catchments with flooding problems analysed for the SRA in two earlier Mendip-wide investigations. In partnership with Mendip District Council, these projects will deliver a range of NFM measures including (where appropriate) ‘Stage Zero’ techniques of river restoration. Elements of existing infrastructure will be inspected to see if they need repairs or improvements in capacity, of if they could be re-naturalised (for example, could a stream be de-culverted?).
3 Highways referrals: Funding for responding to 30 referrals of cases where better land management could help to fix problems such as roads flooding because of run-off from fields. In such cases it makes sense to address causes as well as symptoms. Extra SRA funding enables this to happen with partners working together to tackle issues beyond their usual limited remits.
4 Soil husbandry: Funding for increased uptake of better soil management techniques and cropping changes to improve the infiltration of water and reduce run-off on 25 farms. Initiatives include split field trials, soil husbandry reports and workshops.
5 Online NFM auction: An online auction, excepting only land in lower-lying Internal Drainage Board areas, as the main purpose of natural flood management (NFM) activities in Somerset is to slow the flow of water down through higher parts of river catchments. Farmers will be able select for themselves different NFM activities, pick out parts of their land where they believe those activities will produce the best flood prevention results for themselves and for local communities and then bid for funding for those activities. Previous auctions have led to hundreds of successful bids for various extensive improvements.
6 Modelling and monitoring: Modelling and/or monitoring at sub-catchment scale to demonstrate the effectiveness of natural flood management measures that have already been installed. Special attention will be paid to the Merriott Stream de-culverting project to assess its value in reducing flood risks.
7 Match funding: As with the Merriott Stream de-culverting project, which was mainly funded through an Environment Agency Water Environment Grant, in several cases SRA funding is used as match funding for ongoing projects that hold back water and reduce peak flows, such as:
- the Environment Agency’s Hills to Levels Multi-Benefits project in the sub-catchments of the Upper Washford, Merriott Stream, North Petherton Stream, Back Stream and Halse Water
- the Environment Agency’s Somerset Frome Water Environment Improvement Fund
- the Environment Agency’s River Brue Water Environment Improvement Fund
At the time of writing, decisions are awaited on potential partnership schemes involving the River Sheppey and the Wallbridge area of Frome.
Somerset Trees for Water Action Fund
A third year of SRA funding for the popular Trees for Water initiative, following successes in 2020-21 and 2021-22. This tree and hedge planting action fund helps local communities reduce flood risks arising from surface water run-off. The project is led by Reimagining the Levels, working in collaboration with the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group SouthWest (FWAG SW).
Trees for Water is particularly designed to suit strategically important sites not large enough for Countryside Stewardship grants and not special enough in conservation terms to concern Natural England. This Action Fund is meant to be flexible, bespoke and un-bureaucratic.
On top of the funding awarded by the SRA, free trees worth £20,000 are provided by the Woodland Trust. Planting is usually carried out by landowners themselves and many local volunteers.
Somerset Levels and Moors peat trial
Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA) is to part-fund the running of a trial scheme of payments for the preservation and restoration of peat in 2-4 small areas of the Somerset Levels & Moors. The proposed system of payments will be based on a sliding scale of incentives for progressively higher water tables and compatible types of land management. Areas of wet low-lying land are important to the SRA because they can act as a buffer against flooding.
Lessons learned from the trial will help SRA partners (chiefly the Environment Agency, Natural England and the Internal Drainage Boards) to review, update and refresh Water Level Management Plans (WLMPs). Revised WLMPs are required as part of the SRA’s ongoing development of a Strategic Approach to Mitigation for flood risk reduction activities on the Somerset Levels & Moors, such as dredging and River Sowy-King’s Sedgemoor Drain enhancements.
Lessons learned will also help the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) to develop Environmental Land Management schemes (ELMs) that promote Landscape Recovery. Defra is keen to invest in schemes “that reward farmers and land managers for producing public goods”, such as preventing carbon dioxide (CO2) loss from lowland peat and moving towards carbon sequestration.
The SRA’s ambition is that future payment systems designed by Defra will be right for Somerset, because lessons from Somerset fed into their design.
Wellhams Brook water storage study
A study to assess the feasibility of creating a 4-acre storage pond on land near Wellhams Mill in the Wellhams Brook catchment between Yeovil and Martock. Wellhams Brook flows down into the River Parrett. A new pond could be combined with a series of upstream scrapes and small wetland areas, plus the partial re-instatement of the old Mill leat as an enhanced swale with an outlet for the controlled release of water. Benefits could include reduced flood risks for many people and properties around Martock and roads including the A303, as well as the creation of better habitats for wildlife and improved water quality through measures to remove excess phosphates. At certain times of year water stored in the pond could also be used for agricultural irrigation.
Constructing all these new features would not be cheap or easy. For example, existing infrastructure such as electricity poles could have to be relocated.
The idea was put forward to the SRA by Martock’s flood wardens and the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group SouthWest, with the support of the landowner. One impetus is the large amount of new housing and commercial development upstream at Houndstone and Lufton, prompting fears downstream of increased run-off. SRA funding for a feasibility study will allow for a detailed assessment to be made of the pros and cons of the scheme proposed, its value for money and issues such as maintenance and operation.
Wells catchment management study
Catchment analysis funded by Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA) shows 85 properties at risk of flooding in Wells, and 42 previous incidents of road flooding.
The aim of this new city-wide study is to identify joined-up ways of reducing flood risks, increasing resilience and improving the management of water and land. This project will be led for the SRA by Mendip District Council’s Flood Risk Consultant, working with a large number of organisations, landowners and residents. Every resident of Wells potentially has a part to play. Previous studies will be incorporated, such as one recently funded by the SRA (see picture below) that covered Knapp Hill, St Andrew’s Stream and Keward Brook.
Possible improvements include: re-connecting floodplains, re-naturalising valleys, creating small wetlands and attenuation ponds, planting trees, de-culverting watercourses, reducing soil erosion, lessening pollution, and removing blockages that impede fish.
Particular attention will be paid to areas upstream of the Bishop’s Palace moat, but it is also intended that communities downstream should benefit, in the lower catchments of the River Sheppey and the River Brue.
Wedmore Village Hall SuDS investigation
SRA funding will enable the completion of the ground investigations, detailed designs and community involvements needed for the proposed installation of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) features in Wedmore Village Hall’s large tarmacked car park. The purpose of SuDS features would be to help reduce run-off from the area around the hall, which contributes to flooding on the B3151 Cheddar Road and affects nearby businesses. A pond to help slow the flow of water down from Lascott Hill may also be created on land owned by the Diocese of Bath & Wells.
This scheme is being led by Somerset Wildlife Trust, working closely with the SRA’s community engagement team, the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group SouthWest and Wedmore Parish Council. It is tied in with Adapting the Levels, a major partnership project funded by the EU’s Interreg 2Seas programme and the SRA, which has been particularly busy around Wedmore (and Langport). Earlier stages of this scheme were funded by another EU initiative called Sponge2020.
Partners’ aim now is to enable the creation of a SuDS showcase, which combines lower flood risks with better habitats for wildlife, and fuses greener ideas for urban space with a still-very-useful car park. It is hoped to inspire other communities to follow suit.
Somerset SuDS inspections
Continued SRA funding for a successful programme of very detailed inspections of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) while they are being built at sites across Somerset. The aim is to ensure that SuDS not adopted by a Water & Sewerage Company, district council, highway authority or other public body are constructed and function as designed and approved through the planning process.
This service is led for Somerset Rivers Authority by Somerset County Council’s Flood Risk Management Team, working closely with highways inspectors and district council planners. In some cases, concerns have initially been raised by local residents. Investigations so far have found significant defects that needed to be put right – but also many instances of good practice. One of the aims of continued SRA funding for this programme is to foster a more widespread culture of good practice.
SuDS are designed to control and reduce flows of water from hard impervious surfaces such as roads, roofs and pavements. If heavy rain cannot infiltrate into the ground, run-off can increase local flood risks. SuDS seek to quash this problem by using natural measures such as streams, ponds and reed beds and techniques such as rainwater harvesting, permeable paving and tree-planting. In such ways SuDS can also reduce pollution, improve water quality and make places greener and more attractive for people and wildlife.
SRA-funded SuDS inspections help to make new developments across Somerset better and safer places for local people.
Four programmes of Enhanced Maintenance
Four programmes of enhanced maintenance are being planned by Somerset County Council’s Highways Department. The aim is to help keep roads open in places highly susceptible to flooding, make them safer, preserve access for communities, and safeguard properties from flooding, all in line with the objectives of Somerset’s 20 Year Flood Action Plan. These works benefit residents, businesses and visitors. Where possible, they are dovetailed with the Hills to Levels system of highway referrals to reduce run-off from land onto roads.
Somerset Enhanced Maintenance: Gully emptying
Gullies in places most at risk of flooding across Somerset are cleansed once a year by Somerset County Council. Extra SRA funding means that around 20,000 gullies can be emptied twice a year.
Somerset Enhanced Maintenance: Drain jetting
Extra SRA-funded drain jetting targets places across Somerset at high risk of flooding. Drains are usually only jetted by Somerset County Council on a reactive basis: that is, once they have become blocked. Pro-active jetting is designed to stop drains from getting blocked in the first place, by removing silt and debris. Around 200 places are expected to benefit, depending on various unpredictable factors such as the weather.
Somerset Enhanced Maintenance: Silt trap emptying
Silt-traps are designed to reduce flood risks by collecting silt washed out from land near roads, so highway drainage systems are not jammed with sludge. Somerset has 105 silt-traps at places known to be susceptible to flooding. Extra SRA funding enables Somerset County Council’s Highways Department to carry out a programme of pro-active cleansing, so that traps themselves do not get blocked up, but work as they should.
Somerset Enhanced Maintenance: Trash screen clearing
Extra SRA-funded trash screen clearing targets just under 40 places. Trash screens are usually only cleared by Somerset County Council on a reactive basis: that is, once they have become blocked and already caused people problems. Pro-active clearing is designed to stop screens from getting clogged up in the first place.
Taunton Wellsprings drainage improvements
A scheme to reduce the risks of flash flooding to homes, roads and Wessex Water infrastructure in the Wellsprings area of north Taunton. The main focus will be on Corkscrew Lane, Kingston Road, Wellsprings Road, and Longacre Close. Eight different sets of improvements are proposed, jointly funded by Somerset Rivers Authority and Somerset County Council’s Highways Department. Following flooding in July 2021, Wessex Water is working with Highways on challenges such as providing new cast iron housing for a troublesome sewer pipe.
Burtle culvert replacement and ditch restoration
A scheme to reduce flooding along Robins Lane in Burtle. The site has a long history of problems caused by two undersized culverts and a dilapidated roadside ditch. Works will be delivered for the SRA by Somerset Drainage Boards Consortium (SDBC).
Previously for the SRA, SDBC inspected around 700 of the most vulnerable and strategically important culverts in the Somerset Levels & Moors. The main aims were to gain a better understanding of structures, and then make improvements for the benefit of residents, businesses and all road-users. The works proposed in Burtle follow on from similar enhanced flood risk management schemes in places such as Nythe, Mark and West Huntspill.
Ham and Ruishton flood signs
A new flood warning system for Lane End in Ham and Lipe Lane in Ruishton. Both roads are quite busy with local traffic and motorists seeking to avoid delays on the A358 east of Taunton. Both roads are also regularly troubled with seasonal flooding during which cars quite often get abandoned and driven into ditches. The situation is expected to get worse when works begin within the next three years to dual the carriageway of the A358, prompting more vehicles to seek diversions. Dualling works are expected to last for several years.
To try to deter drivers from risking lives and vehicles, Somerset Rivers Authority is to fund the installation of seven new flood warning signs. Five variable messaging digital signs will be activated by sensors in rising flood waters. Two will be manually operated by local flood wardens. This scheme has been designed for the SRA by Somerset Council’s Highways department working very closely with local residents, Ruishton Parish Council, Ham Village Flood Defence Committee, and the SRA’s Community Engagement team. Local volunteers will continue to be involved as the scheme progresses. More collaborative arrangements are being formed with highways officers, to help replace a scheme called Operation Gannex that was ended by Avon & Somerset Police in early 2021.
Community sub-catchment support
A two-year pilot project to help Somerset groups and communities turn ideas into action. In an increasing number of places, the SRA and its partners are finding highly motivated people who want to reduce flood risks in their own areas but lack technical expertise, experience and confidence. To help establish which measures are best, where they should be located, and how they should be designed and delivered, a project officer will provide technical input and support for effective sub-catchment activities. This SRA-funded officer will be employed through FWAG SW but will work closely with small SRA teams, SRA partners and bodies such as Wessex Water.
A key principle of this project is that work will be initiated by communities. Some places (like Chaffcombe in South Somerset) are already known to have good plans for possible interventions, others (like Kingston St Mary near Taunton) are in need of technical help. Existing SRA grant programmes and a range of funds from other bodies will be used to help deliver resulting flood risk reduction schemes.
Community online flood resources
A project designed to help residents of Somerset deal better with flooding-related matters by providing them with better online information. Nationally, it is well-known that confusion about responsibilities for flooding and land drainage frustrates and exasperates many people. The subject is vividly covered in SRA Board member David Jenkins’ recent report for Defra about surface water and drainage assets. It is, says Mr Jenkins, “a reasonable expectation” that residents should be helped to find their way through administrative systems so as to increase the possibility of finding solutions. This is backed up by the experience of the SRA’s community engagement team. Particularly following recent floods in South Somerset, they have found a strong desire for clear Somerset-focused information that is thorough, realistic and easy to navigate and use. This project therefore aims to bring together all relevant parties to create new online resources that cut through to what people need. On top of SRA funding, contributions will be sought from SRA partners.