Local school children helped mark the end of the first phase of a key flood protection scheme for the Somerset Levels and Moors today.
The youngsters from Othery and Middlezoy primary schools joined Councillor John Osman to officially reopen the A372 following the completion of stage one of works at Beer Wall.
Today’s milestone follows the installation of a 60 tonne temporary bridge which will allow the road to reopen for the winter after an 11-week road closure.
The Somerset County Council-led scheme is part of the multi-agency Flood Action Plan which aims to reduce the likelihood and impact of future flooding. It will see four new culverts installed in the spring, allowing any flood waters to pass beneath the road rather than over it.
This paves the way for the Environment Agency to undertake further work to increase capacity of the River Sowy. It also means that the road would stay open even in flood conditions as severe as last year.
Cllr Osman, Leader of Somerset County Council and Chairman of the Flood Action Plan Leaders Implementation Group, said: “It’s great to see this road back open. I know its closure has been a real headache for many motorists. We thank everyone for their patience and hope they appreciate that the scheme is a key part of the long-term plan to reduce the risk and impact of flooding.
“I’d also like to thank all the staff from the Council, contractors and the other agencies who have worked together and tremendously hard to complete this phase of the work in a fraction of the time it would usually take.
“Everyone living in this area, including the children here today, will have seen first-hand the impacts of last winter’s floods. I hope that today’s reopening gives them some reassurance that a great deal of work is taking place to manage the issue of flooding on the levels.”
The A372 at Beer Wall was closed for several weeks in the winter, at first due to flooding and then to accommodate emergency pumping.
Phase two of the scheme will see the culverts put in place. is scheduled to take place in the spring when weather improves and will require a further road closure. Phase three of the scheme will be the Environment Agency work to increase the capacity of the Sowy. This should not require a road closure.
Simon White, Business Director, Skanska, said: “I am delighted that we are opening the road on time today ahead of the Christmas holidays. The weather and ground conditions have been extremely challenging and we have had to work round the clock, seven days a week over the past month to stay on track.
“What has been achieved on this first phase of the project has been nothing short of remarkable – the project has been designed and built in less than half the time we would expect for such a complex piece of engineering. This has been achieved through some first rate collaboration between multiple agencies and organisations and a project team of well over one hundred people absolutely committed to improving flood resilience on the Somerset levels”