Somerset floods: County "hugely disappointed" over Government cash snub

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  • Environment Secretary arrived in Somerset on Sunday
  • MP had a briefing at Sedgemoor District Council and has been visiting flood-hit communities today (Monday)
  • Government rules out additional funding for flood-hit communities
  • Tens of thousands of acres remain under water
  • Dredging petition attracts more than 4,000 signatures

9:44pm

9:40pm

8:13pm

THERE are also reports of flooding on a stretch of the A358 Eastcombe to Combe Florey.

Motorists should avoid the area for the time being.

8:11pm

MOTORISTS should be wary of a poor road surface on the A39 at Williton, close to Smithyard Lane.

8:03pm

TAUNTON Racecourse will hold a precautionary 7am inspection of the course ahead of tomorrow's meeting.

Stay up to date on the news from that meeting on our website.

5:21pm

4:54pm

3:23pm Mon 27 Jan 14

St. Austell says

Did anyone think that a visit to the Levels by Paterson was going to achieve anything of significance having regard to the inhabitants having no significant lobby to influence the outcome of the next general election? As far as Paterson is concerned its a matter of:
"I care not for your predicament: I'm inboard."
As a side issue on reading:
"Owen Paterson has arrived at Northmoor Pumping Station with a small police
escort."
who is paying for the police presence at this time, the Somerset taxpayer no doubt?

4:19pm

Kate Marks, Environment Agency flood risk manager, has said dredging of rivers on the Somerset Levels would not have prevented flooding.

She said: “The country has faced an extraordinary combination of weather conditions over the last six weeks and our thoughts are with those communities that have and are experiencing flooding.

“We are doing everything we can to pump water off the Somerset Levels and have 65 pumps working 24-7 in the biggest pumping operation ever undertaken in the county.

“Nationally we spent £45m in the last financial year on river clearance, including dredging and weed removal and de-silting work was last carried out on pinch points on the Parrett and Tone rivers in November.

"However, dredging is often not the best long term or economic solution and increased dredging of rivers on the Somerset Levels would not have prevented the recent widespread flooding."

4:05pm

3:57pm

The A358 is closed due to flooding between New Road (Combe Florey) and Watts Lane (Eastcombe). It is affecting traffic between Taunton and Williton.

3:56pm

3:56pm

3:54pm

3:54pm

The Environment Agency says overall there is “slightly less” flood water on the Levels and Moors than two weeks ago.

A spokesman said that is due to “extensive pumping operations and gravity drainage of the system”.

He added: “We now estimate there is in excess of 65 million cubic metres of floodwater on the land.

“We are currently carrying out the single largest pumping operation ever experienced in Somerset.

“In addition to our 40 permanent pumps, we have mobilised a further 25 temporary units.  We are currently pumping at a higher rate than that during the 2000 and 2012 flood events.

“We have brought in extra manpower from around the country to support our teams who have been working 24/7 on the flooding incident for the past month.

“We have teams out in the field 24/7 operating and clearing debris from structures, maintaining the pumps and reinforcing flood banks with sandbags where problems have occurred.”

3:52pm

MP Owen Paterson told reporters earlier today:

"I had a good meeting last night with local farmers and people who understand how the local water system works.

"I held a good meeting with the local MPs this morning to work on a plan which I hope will sort this problem over the next 20 years.

"This area was managed by the Dutch in the Charles I era and national flood guidelines are not appropriate in this part of England because it is an artificial system - it is all below sea level.

"It appears from what everyone is telling me that we need to dredge the two rivers."

Mr Paterson also told reporters that some of the ideas include holding water back on the hills, a flood barrier in Bridgwater, dredging and other flood prevention schemes.

But when the Envrionment Secretary was quizzed whether there would be a 'fast' response to the crippling floods, he said the next step was a six-week plan.

He added: "I totally appreciate how shcoking it is for people to be flooded.

"I have asked all the departments to give me a concrete plan in six weeks plan which will provide satisfaction over the next 20 years.

"That may well involve dredging the two main rivers but also a long-term plan to hold water back, more planting, more SUDS (Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems) further up and possibly a barrage near Bridgwater.

"The locals have six weeks to work with national government, local agencies to come up with a good concrete plan. If they convince me, yes we will sign it off."

3:45pm

12:28pm

Leader of Somerset County Council, John Osman has announced his “disappointment” following news that there will be no immediate extra funding to protect flood-hit communities in Somerset.

However, there was some hope for those communities as Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson announced an action plan for the next 20 years to protect the levels and moors.

Speaking after the visit, Cllr John Osman said: “Although I am hugely disappointed that Central Government have not announced any additional funding we will continue to keep the pressure on to secure a fair deal for Somerset’s residents.

“We are happy to work with Government and other agencies to draw up a long-term plan to protect our communities against flooding but I want to be clear that this is not the end of our fight to lobby Government to support our flood-hit communities”.

Possible projects mentioned by Owen Paterson included a barrage for Bridgwater, dredging rivers, and other flood prevention measures.

12:14pm

Glen Ward, of Thorney, described Mr Paterson's visit as a 'major irritation'.

Mr Ward's house was left submerged by floodwater three weeks ago and of the 20 houses in the village, eight were flooded.

He said: "We have all been really good humoured about it all but Owen Paterson's visit to the area, when he has not even got a pair of wellies on, is a major irritation.

"No doubt all the cameras are there and he can jump in a canoe and have pictures taken of him."

11:14am

Owen Paterson has arrived at Northmoor Pumping Station with a small police escort.

He has been mobbed by the media, local MPs and people affected by the floods asking for the rivers to be dredged.

9:35am

9:29am

9:29am

9:23am

A petition by the Stop the Floods Campaign has now attracted more than 4,000 signatures.

It was started by Andrew Lee, who believes the series of "catastrophic" floods is "entirely avoidable."

He says he hopes the Secretary of State listens to people who know most about the rivers as he visits the levels today. 

Mr Lee added: "We hope that Mr Paterson will provide financial support to those suffering from the floods, to clean up and rebuild lives. But that is dealing with the effect."

To view the petition, click here.

9:10am

Bridgwater and West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger has welcomed the Government’s direct involvement in the Somerset flooding emergency.

Tens of thousands of acres of the Levels are under water with the Rivers Tone and Parrett too choked with silt to drain the area effectively.

Official estimates now suggest it will be five weeks or more before the floods can be cleared.

Mr Paterson announced he would be visiting the area after Mr Liddell-Grainger secured a Parliamentary debate last Wednesday and made a direct appeal to the Prime Minister on Friday.

He will be discussing demands from people for the Government to fund a one-off dredging programme for the Tone and the Parrett and for maintenance of the two rivers to be handed back thereafter to the local drainage boards.

Mr Liddell-Grainger said Mr Paterson’s arrival was a welcome sign that the Government had accepted the seriousness of the situation.

“I have every confidence that he will also order the swift, decisive action that is needed if the floods are not to do even more damage,” he said.

“I and several others will also be making it clear that it is the Environment Agency’s repeated refusals to dredge the rivers that have resulted in a catastrophic amount of damage being done to homes, businesses and farmland."

9:09am

The latest flood map from the Environment Agency shows much of Somerset under a flood warning.

Areas covered in red including most of the Somerset Levels mean a flood warning, the agency's second highest category warning, while orange areas have been placed on a flood alert.

Somerset County Gazette:

9:05am

Somerset County Gazette: DISCUSSIONS: Owen Paterson, environment secretary

ENVIRONMENT Secretary Owen Paterson is due to visit flood-hit communities on the Somerset Levels today (January 27).

Mr Paterson arrived in the county on Sunday night for a briefing at Sedgemoor District Council, but is due meet those at the heart of the destruction later today.

The MP is under pressure to explain why the latest flooding on the levels has been allowed to happen.

Comments (10)

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12:08pm Mon 27 Jan 14

souwesterly says...

Please excuse my viewpoint because it doesn’t come across as being sympathetic to landowners in the Somerset Levels but there is another view that should be considered.

The village of Muchelney was recorded in the Doomsday Book as ‘Micelenie’ meaning 'the increasingly great island' and is standing on land that was reclaimed from the Somerset marshes.
Those marshes were and always have been a natural run-off area for excessive rainfall in and around the area and they’ve flooded since time immemorial, by all impressions.
In addition, as they lie not far above sea level, should sea levels rise as is implied by scientists, high tides will further inundate the Levels in the future.

Regrettably therefore, in my opinion, those who live there must allow for nature to run it’s course; for floods to happen; for access to be cut-off and for land to be unusable.
Surely those who’ve bought land or property in the area were aware of the flood risks.
Surely they understood that severe weather would cause problems for them.

I won’t go into the dredging discussion except to say that in my opinion, causing the water to run off faster will increase erosion – and the next thing will be that farmers are complaining of poor soils or of topsoil just plain missing.
The soil itself is the result of alluvial activity – without floods, bringing with them the soil itself, there would be nothing to farm on.....

I know that not everyone will like my comments but as I’m trying to say, the Somerset Levels have always flooded and whatever we do, they’ll continue to do so.
I do indeed sympathise with flooded homeowners and farmers with nowhere to graze their cattle, but there are two sides to the story.
Please excuse my viewpoint because it doesn’t come across as being sympathetic to landowners in the Somerset Levels but there is another view that should be considered. The village of Muchelney was recorded in the Doomsday Book as ‘Micelenie’ meaning 'the increasingly great island' and is standing on land that was reclaimed from the Somerset marshes. Those marshes were and always have been a natural run-off area for excessive rainfall in and around the area and they’ve flooded since time immemorial, by all impressions. In addition, as they lie not far above sea level, should sea levels rise as is implied by scientists, high tides will further inundate the Levels in the future. Regrettably therefore, in my opinion, those who live there must allow for nature to run it’s course; for floods to happen; for access to be cut-off and for land to be unusable. Surely those who’ve bought land or property in the area were aware of the flood risks. Surely they understood that severe weather would cause problems for them. I won’t go into the dredging discussion except to say that in my opinion, causing the water to run off faster will increase erosion – and the next thing will be that farmers are complaining of poor soils or of topsoil just plain missing. The soil itself is the result of alluvial activity – without floods, bringing with them the soil itself, there would be nothing to farm on..... I know that not everyone will like my comments but as I’m trying to say, the Somerset Levels have always flooded and whatever we do, they’ll continue to do so. I do indeed sympathise with flooded homeowners and farmers with nowhere to graze their cattle, but there are two sides to the story. souwesterly

1:51pm Mon 27 Jan 14

sceptic_steve says...

Well souwesterly that is an excellent point.

We should also stop treating cancer patients too and no longer prescribe Penicllin as this wasn't available at the times of the Doomsday Book and let nature take its true course. Hell let's stop giving pensioners flu jabs and go back to the good old days of 1918-1920 and have another flu pandemic. We get the added benefit of no longer having to pay out for pensions and heating allowances then when the old folks croak!

While we are at it lets make all cars illegal, cease gas and electric supplies and no longer have a source of disease free drinking water. After all nature didn't intend us to have such things and it should be allowed to run it's course, leaving us in caves and mud huts.
Well souwesterly that is an excellent point. We should also stop treating cancer patients too and no longer prescribe Penicllin as this wasn't available at the times of the Doomsday Book and let nature take its true course. Hell let's stop giving pensioners flu jabs and go back to the good old days of 1918-1920 and have another flu pandemic. We get the added benefit of no longer having to pay out for pensions and heating allowances then when the old folks croak! While we are at it lets make all cars illegal, cease gas and electric supplies and no longer have a source of disease free drinking water. After all nature didn't intend us to have such things and it should be allowed to run it's course, leaving us in caves and mud huts. sceptic_steve

2:57pm Mon 27 Jan 14

Gizmo17 says...

All you need to remember is that this isn't London. Need I say more!!!
All you need to remember is that this isn't London. Need I say more!!! Gizmo17

3:20pm Mon 27 Jan 14

#UKMum says...

We in the South East are trying to influence those in tyhe ConDem Cabal. I have written to my MP this morning about Paterson and George Monbiot has published a good article on what might be done based on a study from Wales.
http://www.monbiot.c
om/2014/01/13/drowni
ng-in-money/
We in the South East are trying to influence those in tyhe ConDem Cabal. I have written to my MP this morning about Paterson and George Monbiot has published a good article on what might be done based on a study from Wales. http://www.monbiot.c om/2014/01/13/drowni ng-in-money/ #UKMum

3:21pm Mon 27 Jan 14

St. Austell says...

Did anyone think that a visit to the Levels by Paterson was going to achieve anything of significance having regard to the inhabitants having no significant lobby to influence the outcome of the next general election? As far as Paterson is concerned its a matter of:
"I care not for your predicament: I'm inboard."
As a side issue on reading:
"Owen Paterson has arrived at Northmoor Pumping Station with a small police escort."
who is paying for the police presence at this time, the Somerset taxpayer no doubt?
Did anyone think that a visit to the Levels by Paterson was going to achieve anything of significance having regard to the inhabitants having no significant lobby to influence the outcome of the next general election? As far as Paterson is concerned its a matter of: "I care not for your predicament: I'm inboard." As a side issue on reading: "Owen Paterson has arrived at Northmoor Pumping Station with a small police escort." who is paying for the police presence at this time, the Somerset taxpayer no doubt? St. Austell

3:22pm Mon 27 Jan 14

souwesterly says...

Dear septic_steve,
Your arguments don’t hold water, I’m afraid!
Taking your comments to extremes you could say that we might as well do away with doctors and hospitals; have cars, trains and planes obliterated as sources of death and injury; fill in every pond and swimming pool. Nah – it doesn’t work.
By your thinking, if someone chooses to buy or build a house on the top of a mountain then we should pay for them to have free additional heating and free snow ploughing, etc. No way!

I didn’t entirely say that nature should be left to it’s own devices – I implied that in the case of the Somerset Levels, nature is going to have her own way, whether we like it or not. Short of barricading the entire sea side of the levels (say from Watchet through to Weston); as well as providing tidal gates for outgoing water and vessels on each river, we probably aren’t going to succeed in protecting the area from occasional inundations.
The forecast models suggest a sea level rise of anything up to half a metre within the next 50 years or so – which would cause severe floods to become an annual event, especially if a warmer planet might also mean more rain. (Ok – these are theoretical figures and not everyone believes in global warming, but it makes sense to me)

But getting back to the main problem.....rivers all have a similar profile. They start out steeply wherein they cut through the rocks. Then they enlarge and become more powerful, so they move larger amounts of material and also become wider and finally they tend to level out as they near the coast and deposit their alluvium....their mud and gravel.
That then builds up year on year and the only way to shift it is by dredging. And look what’s happened in America (for example) where they now have to spend many millions to keep the Mississippi under control and between its substantially raised banks.

So the only way to deal with the flooding on the Levels would be to dredge the rivers (in conjunction with the aforementioned barricades) and bank them up constantly.....and no government in this day and age is going to support that.

So I’ll revert to my original thought – that the Levels really should be left as they are. If I were in government I’d be inclined to compensate and relocate all who wanted to move and let those who preferred to stay to make their own arrangements.
I agree that that sounds cold but I can see very few alternatives that’ll be acceptable to everyone.

By the way, Wikipedia says – “Discussions have taken place concerning the possibility of obtaining World Heritage Site status for the Somerset Levels and Moors as a "cultural landscape". It was suggested that if this bid were successful it could improve flood control, but only if wetland fens were created again.”
Unfortunately the plans were abandoned in June 2010 because the Government dithered for too long about funding.
And if they dithered then, then they’re not liable to cough up now either.
Dear septic_steve, Your arguments don’t hold water, I’m afraid! Taking your comments to extremes you could say that we might as well do away with doctors and hospitals; have cars, trains and planes obliterated as sources of death and injury; fill in every pond and swimming pool. Nah – it doesn’t work. By your thinking, if someone chooses to buy or build a house on the top of a mountain then we should pay for them to have free additional heating and free snow ploughing, etc. No way! I didn’t entirely say that nature should be left to it’s own devices – I implied that in the case of the Somerset Levels, nature is going to have her own way, whether we like it or not. Short of barricading the entire sea side of the levels (say from Watchet through to Weston); as well as providing tidal gates for outgoing water and vessels on each river, we probably aren’t going to succeed in protecting the area from occasional inundations. The forecast models suggest a sea level rise of anything up to half a metre within the next 50 years or so – which would cause severe floods to become an annual event, especially if a warmer planet might also mean more rain. (Ok – these are theoretical figures and not everyone believes in global warming, but it makes sense to me) But getting back to the main problem.....rivers all have a similar profile. They start out steeply wherein they cut through the rocks. Then they enlarge and become more powerful, so they move larger amounts of material and also become wider and finally they tend to level out as they near the coast and deposit their alluvium....their mud and gravel. That then builds up year on year and the only way to shift it is by dredging. And look what’s happened in America (for example) where they now have to spend many millions to keep the Mississippi under control and between its substantially raised banks. So the only way to deal with the flooding on the Levels would be to dredge the rivers (in conjunction with the aforementioned barricades) and bank them up constantly.....and no government in this day and age is going to support that. So I’ll revert to my original thought – that the Levels really should be left as they are. If I were in government I’d be inclined to compensate and relocate all who wanted to move and let those who preferred to stay to make their own arrangements. I agree that that sounds cold but I can see very few alternatives that’ll be acceptable to everyone. By the way, Wikipedia says – “Discussions have taken place concerning the possibility of obtaining World Heritage Site status for the Somerset Levels and Moors as a "cultural landscape". It was suggested that if this bid were successful it could improve flood control, but only if wetland fens were created again.” Unfortunately the plans were abandoned in June 2010 because the Government dithered for too long about funding. And if they dithered then, then they’re not liable to cough up now either. souwesterly

3:23pm Mon 27 Jan 14

St. Austell says...

Did anyone think that a visit to the Levels by Paterson was going to achieve anything of significance having regard to the inhabitants having no significant lobby to influence the outcome of the next general election? As far as Paterson is concerned its a matter of:
"I care not for your predicament: I'm inboard."
As a side issue on reading:
"Owen Paterson has arrived at Northmoor Pumping Station with a small police
escort."
who is paying for the police presence at this time, the Somerset taxpayer no doubt?
Did anyone think that a visit to the Levels by Paterson was going to achieve anything of significance having regard to the inhabitants having no significant lobby to influence the outcome of the next general election? As far as Paterson is concerned its a matter of: "I care not for your predicament: I'm inboard." As a side issue on reading: "Owen Paterson has arrived at Northmoor Pumping Station with a small police escort." who is paying for the police presence at this time, the Somerset taxpayer no doubt? St. Austell

10:29am Tue 28 Jan 14

Blue Owl says...

So here we have another spokesperson Kate Marks from the Enviroment Agency, spouting that Dredging is not the answer, when will these people get on with what we the people, residents, councils , both SDC and Now SCC, our Two MP 's, are demanding...........
....
These who desist, the Dredging must GO NOW !!!!!!!!!
David L Preece
Blue-Owl
Enough is Now Enough!!!! Get Rid of Them, in place of the Groundworkers, who are doing a great job made more difficult by their Bosses in E A House.
So here we have another spokesperson Kate Marks from the Enviroment Agency, spouting that Dredging is not the answer, when will these people get on with what we the people, residents, councils , both SDC and Now SCC, our Two MP 's, are demanding........... .... These who desist, the Dredging must GO NOW !!!!!!!!! David L Preece Blue-Owl Enough is Now Enough!!!! Get Rid of Them, in place of the Groundworkers, who are doing a great job made more difficult by their Bosses in E A House. Blue Owl

12:28pm Tue 28 Jan 14

missie-m says...

I think Mr Paterson is now trying to flood all the badgers out of Somerset
I think Mr Paterson is now trying to flood all the badgers out of Somerset missie-m

3:09pm Fri 31 Jan 14

Somerset:SocialistParty says...

A member of the Somerset branch of the Socialist Party writes:

Somerset residents need fully-funded environmental planning

Residents in Somerset still find their homes underwater four weeks after the initial floods. Villages on the Somerset Levels have been most affected, and while communities expect some flooding in these areas, the affect of government cuts and climate change have meant these "once in a hundred years events" are happening every year.

This week Owen Patterson, the Tory environment secretary, visited Somerset to witness the damage himself. He left without speaking to any residents and has also made misleading statements, saying that the Coalition has spent more money on flood prevention than the previous Labour government. This is untrue.

One reason why this year's flooding has been so severe is because the river Parrett, where the flood water is supposed to drain into, has not been dredged. This is obviously due to the huge cuts to the Environment Agency - reportedly up to 40%. What makes this worse is that these dangers were already highlighted in a previous flooding plan written last year. The Con-Dem coalition has ignored this, and the wider concern about flooding, in favour of their austerity agenda. This is madness when put in the context of climate change.

Somerset residents don't need vacuous statements from visiting ministers or Princes. We need fully-funded environmental planning, which can try to mitigate the problems of climate change, not exacerbate them. However, all the three main parties support cuts; to the Environment Agency as well as the NHS, education and councils. We need a new party that not only provides funding for environmental planning, but also uses a socialist plan of production to dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions and pollution in order to reduce climate change.

For more information, or to join the Socialist Party, visit: www.socialistparty.o

rg.uk
A member of the Somerset branch of the Socialist Party writes: Somerset residents need fully-funded environmental planning Residents in Somerset still find their homes underwater four weeks after the initial floods. Villages on the Somerset Levels have been most affected, and while communities expect some flooding in these areas, the affect of government cuts and climate change have meant these "once in a hundred years events" are happening every year. This week Owen Patterson, the Tory environment secretary, visited Somerset to witness the damage himself. He left without speaking to any residents and has also made misleading statements, saying that the Coalition has spent more money on flood prevention than the previous Labour government. This is untrue. One reason why this year's flooding has been so severe is because the river Parrett, where the flood water is supposed to drain into, has not been dredged. This is obviously due to the huge cuts to the Environment Agency - reportedly up to 40%. What makes this worse is that these dangers were already highlighted in a previous flooding plan written last year. The Con-Dem coalition has ignored this, and the wider concern about flooding, in favour of their austerity agenda. This is madness when put in the context of climate change. Somerset residents don't need vacuous statements from visiting ministers or Princes. We need fully-funded environmental planning, which can try to mitigate the problems of climate change, not exacerbate them. However, all the three main parties support cuts; to the Environment Agency as well as the NHS, education and councils. We need a new party that not only provides funding for environmental planning, but also uses a socialist plan of production to dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions and pollution in order to reduce climate change. For more information, or to join the Socialist Party, visit: www.socialistparty.o rg.uk Somerset:SocialistParty

Comments are closed on this article.

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