5 Mar 2014

Flood-proofing the Somerset levels will be a pricey endeavour

The Somerset levels could be protected by a £100m injection of flood defence spending over the next 10 years, including a tidal barrage across the River Parrett according to a draft copy of the “Flood Action Plan” obtained by Channel 4 News.

The 20-year action plan was ordered by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson when he visited the flood stricken levels in January.

Residents Count The Cost Of Their Flooded Homes

As expected, the report calls for government support for a list of priority measures, including the dredging of an 8km stretch of the River Parrett and River Tone “without delay.”

Longer term, it calls for the development of a tidal barrier or sluice on the River Parrett below Bridgwater to protect that town and also potentially reduce the amount of silt entering the Rivers Parrett and Tone from the sea.

It also introduces the idea of raising main roads cut off by flood waters like the A361. Such a scheme could cost millions, and more work will be done to calculate whether this would be a more cost effective option than managing the river system more effectively.

The report states candidly: “the most cost effective mix of flood management measures that will work is unclear.”

The residents of villages such as Muchelney – cut off for weeks by flood water – will no doubt welcome an “aim to ensure” that communities “should have at least one access road, or if that is not possible, easy access to alternative means of transport.”

The government has already announced £130m extra spending for flood clean-up nationwide – £30m this year, and £100m next.

The Somerset levels plan is an equally expensive list of aspirations which, at a total cost of over £100m for the next decade, the authors recognise are “beyond the amount that local partners can provide alone without having to undermine essential services, or make difficult and divisive choices on critical issues like growth and infrastructure provision.”

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See Tom Clarke’s 19 February report: Spending on British flooding – a drop in the ocean?