MORE than £1m of funding has been approved to provide a permanent solution for Watchet's damaged harbour wall.

At its first 'virtual' council meeting since going into lockdown on Monday, April 27, Somerset West and Taunton Council agreed £900,000 capital programme supplementary budget funding, as well as a further £106,000 from its general reserves for repairs and maintenance.

However there was a sense from councillors that Somerset West and Taunton Council had been left alone to fix the problems, with appeals for help with funding from the Government, Environment Agency and Somerset Rivers Authority so far falling on deaf ears.

The wall was breached over the Christmas period following stormy weather and strong tides.

At the meeting, Cllr Marcus Kravis, executive member for economic development, said it 'was a job that needed doing sooner rather than later'.

Somerset County Gazette:

"Watchet is a traditional harbour town," Cllr Kravis said.

"Tourism is vital to the town, and the marina is central to attracting those tourists. The bottom line is that the wall is our asset and we have to repair it."

Somerset West and Taunton localities manager Chris Hall was praised by councillors for his good work and excellent communication in dealing with the Watchet harbour wall dilemma.

In an update to the council Mr Hall said: "We are now looking at a solution which involves rejointing and concrete injection, and we will be able to refurbish the existing staircase beach access as part of the work."

Mr Hall added that when lobbied for help with funding, the Somerset Rivers Authority had said coastal flooding did not fall within their remit, the Government said it was a matter for the Environment Agency, and the Environment Agency said it would not meet criteria required in terms of protecting properties and businesses at immediate risk of flooding.

"We are not at that stage yet, but if there is a further breach of the outer wall, it could see tidal water enter the inner marina and potentially flood The Esplanade in the longer term," Mr Hall said.

Although on-site works are currently paused, Mr Hall said that following approval of the funding, the council would look to continue work on the wall as reasonably possible within the current environment.

Mr Hall also said that although the outer wall was the responsibility of the council, the inner marina was the responsibility of the lease holder Watchet Harbour Marina Ltd; and a Section 146 notice under the 1925 Law and Property Act has been issued which allows landlords to start forfeiture proceedings if a lease has been breached.

The marina operator had been issued repair notices earlier this year in relation to dredging and the operation of lock gates, but Somerset West and Council has decided to take the matter further as it was deemed adequate action had not been taken.