The Somerset Levels and Moors 20 Year Action Plan

"Kings Drain near Westonzoyland, Somerset Levels"
Since this article was written the 20 Year Flood Action Plan has been published.
You can read the Executive Summary and the Full Action Plan here.

What we were asked to do
The Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson has asked for a single, overarching plan that will guide water and land management policies and investment on Somerset’s Levels and Moors for the next twenty years. The plan’s production is being co-ordinated by Somerset County Council and overseen by an Executive Group of Somerset’s local authorities and agencies, chaired by Defra, and has to be submitted by Friday 7th March 2014. As David Cameron said on 13th February, “We cannot let this happen again.”

A map of the geographical area covered by the plan is available for download

Our Starting Point
On 29th January 2014 David Cameron announced his commitment to fund the dredging of the rivers as soon as the waters have dropped sufficiently. 

At about the same time, the Somerset ‘Task Force’ (established in November 2012 to develop a vision of what the Somerset Levels and Moors might look like in 2030) published its vision.

The 20 Year Action Plan will focus on achieving that vision by clearly setting out what needs to be done and when, whilst ensuring that the vision itself continues to meet the emerging needs of the communities affected by flooding.

Work on developing the plan was able to begin immediately, thanks to the research, planning and ideas already generated by all the people involved recently, and over many years.

What we already knew
Land and water management on Somerset’s Levels and Moors is complex, and effective management requires more than one solution. We therefore have many ideas about what needs to be done to reduce the risk and impact of flooding. We will be looking at the actions we need to take now, like dredging, and those we need to develop over the longer term.

Proposals submitted by the Somerset Drainage Boards Consortium (IDB), the Flooding on the Levels Action Group (FLAG), and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Somerset Wildlife Trust (SWT), have a lot of commonality as shown:

Dredge the rivers Yes Yes Yes, but don’t damage wetlands
Construct a tidal sluice on the Parrett Yes Yes  
Land and property levy/rate Yes Yes  
Soil infiltration/storage in upper catchment Yes Yes Yes
Reduce urban run-off Yes Yes Yes
Promote flood resilience Yes   Yes
Relocate vulnerable households Yes    
Help for landowners in flood storage areas Yes   Yes
Adaptation for farmers in flood storage areas Yes   Yes
Farms to be more resilient/relocate Yes   Yes
Investment in flood infrastructure   Yes Yes
Local (IDB) control of ongoing water management   Yes  
Better use of SowyRiver and gravity drainage     Yes
Spread water across the floodplain     Yes
Use agri-environmental schemes to facilitate resilience / adaptation

Additional idea put forward by Task Force

The ideas generated have been drawn together and, for ease of reference, will be themed in the plan as follows:

flooding04Dredging and River Management
This theme covers all aspects of river channel capacity i.e. i) management and maintenance of the channel (including dredging and pumping) ii) existing and potential new control structures (including tidal control e.g. barrier or sluice) iii) flow management (e.g. spillways, channel modifications, relief channels) and flood protection for communities or individual locations.

Land Management
This theme includes the actions required to better manage the land to improve drainage. The ideas are wide ranging and include improving soil management, the introduction of farm-scale ponds and banks to intercept the water before it reaches the Levels; the creation of new wetland areas; woodland planting; and adapting floodplain farming.

Urban Run-off
This theme focuses on reducing the run-off in urban areas, and therefore the flood risk; and reviewing the appropriateness of emerging and adopted planning policies in Somerset for dealing with flood risk in the light of current events and programme amendments where required.

Infrastructure Resilience
This will include the actions we need to take to minimise the risk of disruption to the area’s road and rail networks, sewage systems and power and water supplies, as a result of flooding.

Community and Business
This theme includes the actions that will help local people help themselves and each other to reduce the risk and impact of flooding to their homes, work places, farms and communities e.g. better broadband

Economics, Funding and Future Governance
Ideas in this theme relate to understanding the consequential cost of flooding; the cost of preventing flooding; how the work will be funded, and who should manage and be accountable for future delivery.

How the public have contributed to the plan 

The ideas we received from the public between the 13th and the 21st February have all been considered in the writing of the plan. You can read all the ideas submitted.  We will be submitting the plan to the Secretary of State on Thursday 6th March and it will be published on this page.

We are also in the process of arranging local meetings and/or drop in sessions, the dates and times of which will be published on this web page.

Published Plans from which ideas have been drawn

Somerset Drainage Boards Consortium (IDB) Ten Point Plan
Flooding on the Levels Action Group (FLAG) Seven Point Plan

Stop the Floods Facebook Page: Six Point Agenda

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Somerset Wildlife Trust (SWT) Five Key Principles                                                           
Environment Agency: Catchment Flood Management Plans The following plans are relevant: Parrett (for Parrett and Tone); North & Mid Somerset (for Brue and Axe)

Catchment Abstraction Management Strategies :  The following plans are relevant: Bristol Avon and North Somerset Streams (for Axe); South and West Somerset (for Brue, Parrett and Tone)

Internal Drainage Board: water level management plans 

Athelney Transition Group: Athelney transition feedback

Country Land and Business Association: CLA views on SLM 20 yr plan -call for ideas 210214

National Farmers Union: Somerset Levels and Moors 20 Year Action Plan – SW NFU response

Simon Masters: Severn Estuary Tidal Energy and Flooding On The Somerset Levels 

Useful links

The geographical area included in the plan
The Task Force vision
Parrett Catchment Project
Somerset Wildlife Trust
RSPB policy and briefings on flooding and wetlands

The Executive group consists of:
South Somerset District Council, Sedgemoor District Council, Taunton Deane Borough Council, Somerset County Council, Environment Agency, Internal Drainage Board, Local Enterprise Partnership and the RSPB representing the voluntary sector.