NEARLY 1,200 Taunton properties and the planned Firepool development will be protected from flooding as part of a multi-million scheme.

Somerset West and Taunton Council has been working with the Environment Agency on several projects designed to prevent flooding in the town.

The council’s executive voted on Wednesday to set aside £6million to fund two schemes, while work is ongoing to secure funding for a third.

The work will help to protect the Firepool regeneration site and the town centre, preventing millions of pounds’ worth of damage and disruption.

The council and EA's Taunton Strategic Flood Alleviation Improvements Scheme is supported by the Somerset Rivers Authority.

It features several initiatives which to protect different amount of properties in various parts of the town – and which can be carried out individually as funding becomes available.

The entire scheme is likely to cost around £100million.

Initially, work will be concentrated on optimising Longrun Meadow and raising the flood defences on the bank of the River Tone between Frieze Hill and Town Bridge.

That will protect 1,195 properties and prevent flooding on the Bridge Street/Staplegrove Road, Station Road and Firepool.

Just over £3.2million will come from developer contributions, with the rest from the new homes bonus paid to the council for achieving a certain number of new builds a year.

Council leader Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts said: “I see this very much as the beginning of what we need to do in terms of mitigating flood risk.

“If flooding were to happen, like it did in the 1960s, it could cause £50million of damage to the centre of Taunton.”

Work is ongoing to find funding to raise Firepool lock gate and the earth bund between the River Tone and the canal.

Ann Rhodes, the council’s strategy specialist, said it would be best to carry this out before the regeneration of Firepool had been completed.

She said in a written report: “The works would be more difficult to implement after the Firepool development is built, and it would cause disruption and potential blight for the occupants there.”

Cllr Gwilym Wren welcomed the town centre work, but questioned the longer-term goal of storing water upstream of Taunton to prevent flooding.

He said: “Water does tend to flow downhill – the Somerset Levels and Moors are the natural floodplain for this catchment.

"I don’t see why we’re obliged to create the hugely expensive flood storage facility at Bradford-on-Tone."

Cllr Peter Pilkington, portfolio holder for climate change, said: “We are adding to the flooding problem, and we can’t stand by and say: ‘Oh we’ll just pass that on down to the Levels’.

“What the scheme is trying to do is mitigate flooding in a huge area – we have to take responsible for what we can do.”

The scheme is likely to cost around £50million to build and maintain, but will protect more than 2,000 properties once completed.

The executive voted unanimously to approve the funding for the town centre schemes – though the full council will have to give final approval before any work can commence.