TAUNTON residents will be able to have their say later this year on steps to prevent their town from flooding in the coming decades.

Taunton Deane Borough Council is working with the Environment Agency to develop a comprehensive flood prevention strategy, covering the River Tone and its three tributaries that run through the town centre.

The strategy will take account of climate change, ensuring that current properties are safeguarded and that new development can proceed safely.

Numerous different schemes are being considered, with the strategy being implemented piece by piece as funding becomes available.

A progress update was given to the board of the Somerset Rivers Authority, which met in Bridgwater on Friday morning (June 8).

Brendan Cleere, the council’s director of growth and development, said that a “pragmatic approach to funding” was needed in light of the many different schemes which could be included.

Somerset County Gazette:

This car become trapped in floodwater in Netherclay, Bishop's Hull, in March

The council has made flood prevention one of the key priorities for how it spends the new homes bonus – a grant from central government which increases as the council build more new homes.

Taunton Deane has been granted more than £3.5m in the latest round of the new homes bonus, including nearly £80,000 for delivering affordable homes, according to the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The council also intends to use money from the community interest levy (CIL), which is paid to the local authority by housing developers.

Money collected through CIL can be used on improvements in the district, rather than just the area served by a particular development.

Mr Cleere said that developments in central Taunton were “unlikely to provide a significant financial contribution to strategic flood defence”, because many of them already had localised flood prevention schemes in place.

However, he said that CIL money could still be provided by development on the outskirts, such as Monkton Heathfield or the planned 2,000 homes in Comeytrowe.

Mr Cleere said that “major engineering work” would be needed to provide enough capacity in Taunton’s waterways for the next 100 years, and this would be centred on two projects: improved flood defence walls in Taunton itself, and a means of storing flood water upstream.

He said in his report: “If these two major components of flood defence were constructed, at the same time the capital cost would be in the order of £50m.

Somerset County Gazette:

Flooding on Somerset Levels in January 2016

“A new flood storage area and its dam would also require a new ongoing maintenance commitment.”

Mr Cleere’s team will “lay out the most cost-effective approach” to achieving the schemes, which will go out to public consultation by the end of 2018.

John Lang, from the Parrett Internal Drainage Board, said that the flow of water downstream from Taunton should be carefully controlled to prevent a repeat of the devastating floods of 2013/14.

He said: “If you raise the walls or flood banks in Taunton, that water has to go somewhere – it will be sent down the Tone and affect areas downstream.

“I have nothing against the Tone improvements, but I don’t want other areas to be affected.”

EA project executive Graham Quarrier responded that more water storage facilities would be built into the strategy to ensure that these areas did not flood.

Mr Cleere added: “We aim to produce a draft strategic plan for consultation around the end of 2018, which will identify the most cost-effective components of work and the likely timetable of delivery.

“Seeking consents and funding for short-term components could commence in 2019.”

The precise dates of the consultation, and any public events held in conjunction with it, will be announced by the council later in the year.