Using nature to reduce Somerset flood risk

Three projects that will use nature to reduce flood risk in and around Somerset are moving forward thanks to £2.53m in European grants.

The County Council and partners bid for funding for the schemes that will help the county adapt to climate change by reducing flood risk through natural flood management rather than engineering.

The resulting ‘Co-adapt’ project will bring £2.53m from the European Regional Development Fund into Somerset over the next three-and-a-half years for the projects on the Levels, Porlock Vale and the River Culm catchment.

The Somerset Flood Action Plan, drawn-up in the wake of the 2013/14 winter floods, included a commitment to develop long-term land management actions to reduce flood risk in the face of climate change.

“Natural approaches to reducing flood risk are often less invasive and can be more sustainable in the longer term,” said Councillor David Hall, Cabinet member for Economic Development, Planning and Community Infrastructure.

“Councils across Somerset and the rest of the country declared a climate emergency earlier this year and these projects complement that perfectly. Like all effective climate change initiatives, they are the result of great partnership working.”

The projects are:

Flood Plain Resilience Project – Communities and landowners on the Somerset Levels changing land use and management, developing plans to make the area more resilient to flood and drought. Will involve the Somerset Rivers Authority, Somerset Wildlife Trust, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) and the County Council.

Porlock Vale Streams Project – Led by the National Trust, this will include restoring moorland in the headwaters, reconnecting rivers with their floodplain, species reintroduction, creating flood meadows, ponds and seasonal wetlands on the floodplain; and restoring natural processes to deliver benefits for people and nature.

River Culm Catchment – In Devon and part of Somerset, the Blackdown Hills AONB will work with communities to install natural flood management approaches in three demonstration zones. Includes creation of attenuation ponds and silt traps by damming streams and drainage channels; and innovative flood alleviation features on land linked to new developments.

Tim Youngs, Manager of the Blackdown Hills AONB said: “With the ever-increasing effects of climate change, such as flood and drought, it is a critical time to tackle the issues facing the catchment of the River Culm.

“We will be working with local communities helping the Culm catchment to ‘heal’ itself. In doing so, it will become more resilient to flood and drought and local people will benefit through reduced flood risk to properties downstream, enhanced biodiversity and improved water quality.”

Funding for the scheme has come from the Interreg 2 Seas funding programme – a European Territorial Cooperation Programme covering England, France, the Netherlands and Belgium (Flanders). The Programme is part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund.