The floods that hit Somerset last year caused devastation for many homes throughout the county, but what has been done to prevent such damage from happening again?
January 2014 saw some of the heaviest rainfall on record. Somerset was one of the worst counties affected, experiencing devastating floods that destroyed people’s homes and businesses. The then Environment Secretary visited the worst affected areas and was met with angry residents who were demanding that changes should be made to flood defences in the area.
What Changes Have Been Made?
Despite the Environment Agency insisting that dredging the rivers prior to the flood would not have prevented the flood, farmers and landowners persist to blame the lack of dredging for the devastation.
A strategy was put together in the form of the Somerset Levels and Moors Action Plan, which is set to cost £100m and take place over 20 years. The first phase of the plan consisted of dredging the first 5 miles of the River Parrett and River Tone and was completed within 8 months.
Work has also been carried on the earth embankments of the village of Thorney, which was under water for two months last winter. The project, which is now complete, is protecting 10 houses and a road into Thorney. In a similar situation, the villagers of Muchelney were also cut off due to the high flood waters. A scheme to raise the main road coming into the village is predicted to be completed in the next week or so.
The plan of action included a permanent flood barrier at Westonzoyland which due to unsuitable ground conditions, has come to a halt for a brief period of time. The project was redesigned and things got underway in October 2014; the work is predicted to be finished in the near future.
Many other projects are being and have been implemented across the county, including a potential tidal barrier that’s going to be placed upstream from Bridgewater, a temporary bridge between Aller and Othery, pumps to remove excess water from certain areas.
A flood protection body was set up to oversee flood protection measures in Somerset, into which the government then agreed to pay £2m to help fund the start-up of the organisation. The council is set to fund the scheme by increasing council tax by £25 a year.
Somerset Rivers Authorisation (SRA) and Community Resilience Groups have also been launched in six areas to provide the right support and action for flood victims.
It’s safe to say that plenty of projects have been put into place to prevent further damage being cause to Somerset and its residents, but time will tell whether they have the desired effect!