County Council salutes Somerset’s remarkable flood response

A year after the major incident officially came to an end Somerset County Council is this week celebrating the incredible response to last year’s flooding on the Levels and Moors.

The widespread flooding was classified a ‘major incident’ between 24 January and the end of March last year. It is thought nearly 150 homes were flooded to some extent and many more were affected as roads and large areas of the Levels were inundated.

The floods prompted a phenomenal response from local volunteers and others from around the country. Emergency services, councils and other agencies came together to tackle first the emergency and then help communities recover.

In April Somerset County Council funded two established voluntary groups to come together to oversee the volunteer recovery effort. The achievements of the Somerset Emergency Volunteers over the next nine months give some indication of the value of the volunteers.

  • 90 property owners supported
  • 52,600 volunteer hours formally contributed – worth £341,900 (using minimum wage levels as a measure)
  • Adding in the flooding emergency response, more than 5,000 volunteers worked for more than quarter of a million hours and with a likely value of several millions of pounds.
  • 72 homes provided with items of donated furniture

“It’s impossible to put a value on the volunteer effort, it goes far beyond pounds and pence,” said Councillor John Osman, Leader of Somerset County Council. “But however you try to measure these things, the volunteer response has been unprecedented, humbling and hugely appreciated. Even more, it must be recognised that this effort continues with volunteers still helping residents on a daily basis.”

Cllr Osman also thanked the teams of volunteers from companies around the country. “We have had support from supermarkets, banks, construction companies, and from groups like Rotary and Lions – it has been an overwhelming effort,” he said.

A range of agencies continue to provide help and support, for example around mental health and wellbeing and access to grants, to those affected by the flooding and those who still have not been able to return to their homes.

A key response to the floods has been the development of the multi-agency Somerset Levels and Moors Flood Action Plan. Produced in just six weeks by a range of agencies including the County Council, district councils, the Environment Agency and Internal Drainage Boards; it sets out clear plans to reduce the frequency, duration and severity of flooding.

Since the plan was agreed in March 2014, its achievements include:

  • Attracting more than £20m of funding from Government departments
  • 8km of dredging on the Tone and Parrett (Environment Agency)
  • Road raised to ensure access to Muchelney (County Council)
  • First phase of Beer Wall works complete (County Council)
  • Ringbanks at Thorney and Thorney Pottery (Internal Drainage Boards)
  • £325,000 awarded through Repair and Renewal grants (district councils)
  • Creation of the Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA), which is now overseeing the delivery of the Flood Action Plan, with £1.9m interim Government funding for its first year.

Cllr Osman, who is also Chair of the SRA, said: “The SRA has much work planned but it’s important that we continue to spread the word that Somerset weathered the flooding remarkably well and is well and truly open for business.”