Pioneering website helps Somerset plan for climate change

A new web-based app is giving people the opportunity to explore the impacts of climate change on the Somerset Levels.

The app has been created as part of the Adapting the Levels project to help local people turn individual ideas into plans for collective action, focusing particularly on the challenges of flooding and drought.

Adapting the Levels is a partnership between Somerset County Council, Somerset Wildlife Trust and the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group SouthWest. It is funded by the EU’s Interreg 2 Seas Regional Development Fund and Somerset Rivers Authority.

Somerset County Councillor David Hall, Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Planning and Community Infrastructure and Chair of Somerset Rivers Authority, said: “The app uses a cutting-edge technique that’s being employed around the globe to plan for climate change. ‘Adaptation Pathways’ are a simple way of looking at complex issues, to see how different options interact.

“What’s unique about Somerset’s approach with this app is that it allows everyone to contribute, enabling an inclusive and accessible conversation to take place. This is a pioneering approach that will help Somerset’s residents plan for a climate-resilient future.”

Adapting the Levels has worked with parish and town councils, businesses and communities to create draft pathways, which are available to explore online. They include reducing rainwater runoff from homes and gardens, managing flood risk in Wedmore and Langport, and managing flooding and drought on agricultural land. The app is designed to be used on a tablet or desktop computer. Everyone is invited to view the pathways, comment and add ideas, by visiting www.adaptingthelevels.co.uk.

Shelly Easton, Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Climate Adaptation Manager, said: “Even if global emissions stopped tomorrow, there’s still decades of change locked in due to climate lag. Responding to the climate emergency requires an approach on two fronts: mitigating our greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the unavoidable changes.

“The pathways on the app have been created in workshops with local people, which has been a really enjoyable and thought-provoking process. One of the most interesting elements is that we were able to place traditional flood defence measures, like raising banks and dredging, alongside nature-based solutions such as planting trees on hills to slow the flow of water, or re-connecting rivers with the floodplains to create capacity. This means we can see how these different approaches support each other.”

The adaptation plans can be used by parish councils looking at local issues such as surface water flooding, or to inform Somerset’s strategy with wider issues like river flooding or increasing agricultural pressures. Local people’s thoughts about the plans will be compiled and shared by Adapting the Levels, helping create a shared vision for the future of Somerset’s communities and businesses. People can add their voice and join the mailing list by visiting www.adaptingthelevels.co.uk.

Note to editors:

Online App

Developed with the support of the Somerset-based web design company Ideas Bureau.

About the Adapting the Levels Project

The Adapting the Levels project is working with policy makers, infrastructure experts, landowners, farmers and communities to create a climate-resilient vision for the Somerset Levels. The project is a partnership involving Somerset Wildlife Trust, the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) SouthWest and Somerset County Council. 

Adapting The Levels is part of a larger EU Climate Adaptation project called Co-Adapt which involves 12 partners spanning 4 countries; UK, France, the Netherlands and Belgium. The other UK based projects are the Porlock Vale Streams Project, led by the National Trust and the River Culm Catchment Project in Devon and parts of Somerset,led by the Blackdown Hills AONB.

Co-Adapt has received a total of €7 million from the Interreg 2 Seas funding programme – a European Territorial Cooperation Programme. The Programme is part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund. Somerset Rivers Authority has also provided match funding for Adapting The Levels.