The first phase of a major flood protection scheme on the Somerset Levels is entering its final stages.
The Beer Wall works, which are being carried out by Somerset County Council as part of the multi-agency Flood Action Plan, will see four large culverts installed under the A372 next to the Sowy. Despite the ambitious timescale, the first phase of the project is on schedule to be completed before Christmas – subject to the weather.
John Osman, Chair of the Flood Action Plan Leaders Implementation Group and Leader of Somerset County Council, said: “In engineering terms, it’s pretty incredible what has been achieved in such a short space of time. As has been the case from day one, a spell of bad weather could delay things so we have to be cautious. But as things stand we are on track to complete the first phase of this key scheme on schedule and have the road reopened again before Christmas.”
Several hundred metres of road has been raised, by more than half a metre in places, and a huge outlet spillway – nearly 3m deep and 25m wide – has been excavated on the North side of the road. The spillway will allow any flood water passing through the culverts to disperse evenly. Work is about to start on a similar inlet spillway to the south of the road which would channel flood water into the culverts.
A 40ft section will also shortly be ‘cut out’ of the road to eventually accommodate the culverts. This means that although this is only phase one of works, any flood waters this winter would be able to pass under the road rather than flooding over it.
The plan is to have the temporary bridge in place and the road reopened to traffic before Christmas. Phase two of the scheme, planned for spring when weather improves, will see the culverts put in and a permanent road reinstated over them.
Councillor Osman added: “With winter upon us, I know communities on the Levels and Moors will have concerns. The County Council hopes that schemes like this give some reassurance that all the organisations involved in the Flood Action Plan have been working hard to reduce the risk of flooding as well as to improve the way we respond together in the event of a flood.”
Last winter the A372 was flooded at Beer Wall for several weeks and then closed to accommodate emergency pumping. As well as protecting the road, this scheme will allow the Environment Agency to undertake further work to increase the capacity of the Sowy.
Simon White, Business Director, Skanska, said: “We are absolutely delighted with progress so far on this scheme. We always knew it was going to be a huge challenge designing and building such a complex project so quickly. In spite of this and everything the weather has thrown at us we are on programme. It’s been a terrific team effort from over one hundred people. We started on site just 8 weeks after commending the design – a remarkable feat achieved by many agencies and organisations working collaboratively because they absolutely get the importance of this work to the community.”