A big step forward

“A big step forward, bringing hope to our flood-hit communities” – that’s the verdict of Somerset County Council after the much heralded 20 year Flood Action Plan was formally unveiled today.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson announced the Plan in the House of Commons – and immediately it was backed up by a £10m investment from the Department for Transport with a further £500k from the Department for Communities and Local Government.

The Plan sets out targets and aims to prevent the same level of flooding hitting Somerset’s levels and moors that has been suffered over recent months.

“We have worked together to find solutions in the short, medium and long term,” said Council Leader John Osman. “The Plan contains some firm ideas for what we can do now, but also some broad ambitions such as a sluice or barrage for the River Parrett and long term projects to prevent water entering the area in the first place.

“We listened to local people in drawing up the plan and we will spend a lot of time now talking and listening to them again to ensure the plan is fit for purpose and supported by local people.

“I am particularly pleased that the Department for Transport have made such a significant contribution, we are very grateful.”

Among the first to see the Plan was the Flooding on the Levels Action Group (FLAG). Chairman Heather Venn said the group was “cautiously optimistic”.

“We need to keep a careful eye on this, and it is absolutely crucial that the funding is there, but it is a very positive first step and we welcome much that is in it,” she said.

It contains a number of commitments such as dredging around five miles of the River Parrett, and repairing damaged riverbanks.

The plan also contains a number of ambitions that would require significant further funding.

The £10.5m government investment comes on top of the £10m previously announced by the Prime Minister. A further £1.5m has already been raised towards dredging and other flood prevention measures across Somerset authorities and partners.

You can also read the RSPB article – Somerset Levels and Moors Flood Action Plan: Good words must translate into real change