MORE than £2 million is to be spent on ensuring a crucial piece of Somerset’s flood prevention network can remain in working order for another 25 years.

The Dunball sluice, near Junction 23 of the M5, controls the flow of water from the King’s Sedgemoor Drain into the River Parrett to prevent flooding on the Somerset Levels and Moors.

The sluice has been in operation since 1971, and a number of its components have “reached the end of their serviceable life”, according to the Environment Agency (EA).

To solve the problem, the EA is committing funding both from central government and local partners to keep the sluice in working order until the mid-2040s.

The sluice project is part of a range of schemes within the EA’s capital programme, which is designed to protect at least 1,680 additional homes across the south west from flooding by March 2021.

It provides direct protection for 115 homes in and around Bridgwater, as well as providing £36m in additional economic benefits, according to the EA.

Somerset County Gazette:

The sluice has been in operation since 1971

Practice manager Andrew Gill laid out the work needed to safeguard the sluice in a report to the EA’s Wessex regional flood and coastal committee when it met virtually on July 21.

He said in his written report: “A number of elements of this defence have now reached the end of their serviceable life.

“Refurbishment of various components are now required to ensure the operational capability of the Dunball sluice for the next 25 years.”

Among the faults identified within the sluice are:

  • Defects in its vertical gates (which affects water flow into the Parrett)
  • Deterioration of concrete in certain areas
  • Water leaking from the side culverts
  • Water within the structure of the sluice itself
  • Build-up of silt around the sluice, impeding its operation
  • Sand entering certain mechanical components

While the sluice is not at any immediate risk of failing, it remains a “strategically important asset” and all these issues must be addressed.

Mr Gill added: “This project will extend the residual life of the Dunball Sluice structure to ensure the effective and affordable performance of the asset.

“The works will also allow continued management of water levels and protection from tidal and fluvial flooding, which are vital to prevent a deterioration in the condition of the Somerset Levels and Moors.”

Up to £2.345m will be spent on the project, of which just under £2.1m will come from grant funding from central government.

The remainder will come from “local levy funding”, with around £250,000 raised through council tax being allocated towards the scheme over a six-year period.

If further funding is needed, the EA’s committee will meet again to decide whether the project remains financially viable before construction occurs.