SRA helps flood wardens Slow the Flow

Major natural flood management works near Yeovil, funded by Somerset Rivers Authority, will help to protect villages, hamlets and roads.

Improvements in the grounds of Cambian Lufton College, close to the A3088, include:

  • de-silting a pond to re-create 3,000m3 of flood storage
  • building large woody dams to help control future silt build-up and slow the flow of water
  • installing a new steel frame with adjustable boards (called a penstock) to give greater control of the main pond outlet

The penstock will be used by flood wardens from Martock to better manage high volumes of water during periods of heavy rain, holding it back in the extra storage space, then slowly and safely releasing it.

The Lufton area is important because it’s downstream of major existing and new developments on the west and north-west side of Yeovil. It feeds into Wellhams Brook, which goes under the A303 and then into the River Parrett and down to the Somerset Levels & Moors.

Cllr John Osman, Chair of Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA), said: “More than 100 natural flood management schemes have been funded by the SRA, using Growth Deal money from the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, and this is the biggest scheme so far. It ties in with other SRA-funded work at places like Montacute, Tinker’s Bubble, Odcombe and Bower Hinton.

“Bit by bit, using all sorts of different methods, we’re reducing the risks of flooding locally and further downstream in Martock and beyond. No one else is able to take quite the same joined-up approach as the SRA, and it’s great to see local people working with partners and using SRA funding to tackle the ways that water flows through whole catchments.”

The main mover locally was Martock Flood Warden Co-ordinator Gordon Swindells, a retired policeman with experience of emergency planning, and the dangers of water. He was inspired to act in Martock by flooding in 2012, when 14 cars were abandoned between the village and the A303, on a busy road where water can hit 3ft deep. Martock now has more than a dozen flood wardens, who vigilantly monitor weather and water levels and seek out potential sites for flood risk reduction.

Mr Swindells and Roy Hayes, a natural flood management advisor for the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group South West, looked at sites upstream of Martock. Mr Hayes then focused on design and consents, while Mr Swindells liaised with landowners Cambian and contractors Bernard Perry of North Curry.

Mr Swindells said: “I’m just happy that I’ve been able to assist in making the community safer. That’s what it all about.”

Mr Hayes said: “It’s now a brilliant site for showing other landowners what can be achieved, and for monitoring the effects of this kind of work. I’m a firm believer in adapting existing structures and using natural flood management techniques so that we have control mechanisms near the source of potential problems. Here we’ve created so much more capacity for slowing the flow of water, it’s impressive.”

Work was done outside of term times at Lufton College, so as not to disrupt the education of its students, all 16 to 25 year-olds with learning disabilities and complex needs.

David Turner, Property Director with the Cambian Group, which runs Lufton College, said: “The woody dams were built with timber from our land and the silt was spread on one of our fields and it’s been fascinating to see the changes that have been made. It’s good to help reduce flood risks – plus the site’s now more accessible for our students and more attractive for wildlife.”

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