SOMERSET residents have given their thoughts on future work to prevent flooding on the Somerset Levels.

It’s ten years since the Somerset Levels and Moors were subjected to the worst flooding in a generation, with more than 150 homes being flooded and thousands of businesses impacted.

The severity of the flooding led to the creation of a 20-year flood action plan and the Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA), with different public bodies working together to coordinate flood prevention efforts and prevent a repeat of these calamitous events.

The SRA was asking Somerset residents to give their views on its priorities for the next ten years, ensuring it is still delivering in the areas where taxpayers need it the most.

This comes in the aftermath of numerous localised flood incidents, including on the Levels around Christmas.

The winter of 2013/14 was the wettest in Somerset for around 250 years, resulting in around 150 sq km of land being submerged for weeks, 165 homes being flooded, 7,000 businesses taking a hit and 81 roads closed – at a total estimated cost of £147.5m.

The floods were particularly severe for the residents of Muchelney, who were cut off in all directions and could only receive supplies via boat for several weeks.

The flooding prompted visits from numerous high-profile figures – including Prince (now king) Charles, then-environment secretary Owen Paterson and then-prime minister David Cameron (now foreign secretary), who promised his government would spend “whatever it takes” to prevent anything on this scale from happening again.

At the heights of the floods, Somerset’s five councils and numerous other partners came together to create the 20-year flooding action plan, which identified a series of solutions which could prevent a repeat of these floods – including raising Law Lane in Muchelney to prevent residents from being cut off in the future.

The raised road, which links Muchelney to the neighbouring village of Drayton, was completed in early-2015 at a cost of just over £2.6m.

A spokesman for the SRA said; “The 20-Year Flood Action Plan (FAP) has significantly reduced the risks and impacts of flooding.

“Local improvements such as Muchelney’s raised road and Thorney’s two ring bank protection schemes have proved successful in combination with wider projects such as dredging of the River Parrett downstream and dozens of natural flood management activities upstream.

“Some problems and risks inevitably remain, but all the people and organisations involved with the FAP have together made a real difference.”

More than 80 per cent of the plan’s recommendations have been successfully implemented either in part or in full, with more than £80m from various funding sources being invested since 2014.

The Environment Agency (EA) has been undertaking significant maintenance on the Levels and Moors, including cutting back vegetation to prevent blocked infrastructure, removing silt from drainage ditches and upgrading its pumping stations – including Midelney pumping station, upstream of Langport.

The SRA is designed to deliver additional schemes which are not provided by Somerset Council or the EA – with 237 such schemes and activities being funded across the county.

On top of large-scale infrastructure work, such as improvements to the River Sowy or carrying out water injection dredging to move silt out of the River Parrett, the SRA has been involved in numerous smaller projects, working with agricultural landowners on projects to slow surface run-off and providing improved drainage in urban areas.

A spokesman said: “A major aim of the SRA and its partners has been to increase the amount of water that can be conveyed down the Tone and Parrett, while also allowing for more water to go down through the Sowy-King’s Sedgemoor Drain system to Dunball Sluice.

“Less pressure on the Parrett and Tone means that upstream and downstream pumping stations can be operated earlier.”

Ten years on from the FAP’s creation, the SRA has been consulting on its plan for the next ten years, which lays out which parts of the county and which kind of improvements will be prioritised within the SRA’s annual budget of around £3m.

A spokesman said: “Research carried out by the Parrett Internal Drainage Board found that if the same 2013-14 pattern of events recurred, there was a significantly reduced likelihood that properties that flooded in 2014 would flood again.

“This was because of the combined benefits of a series of moves taken locally since 2014, such as pioneer dredging and regular maintenance dredging including water injection dredging, works at Beer Wall and along the Sowy-King’s Sedgemoor Drain system, the setting-up of a new system of EA trigger points and the provision of additional pumping capacity, especially at Northmoor.

“However, the funding available hasn’t allowed as much to be done as we would like, and different kinds of high rainfall events are happening more often in more places.

“In recent years there have been more cases of very localised flash flooding across Somerset, and more are predicted because of climate change.

“We want to continue to reduce the risks and impacts of flooding across Somerset river catchments, while encouraging greater readiness for more sudden, intense and unpredictable events.”

There have been a number of extreme events of localised flooding in 2023 as a series of storms hit the West Country – with more properties being affected in a short space of time than those affected by the floods of 2013/14.

In the North Cadbury area, more homes flooded in a few hours in May 2023 than the total affected during the three months of the 2013/14 winter.

Both Chard and Ilminster have also seen significant localised flooding in 2021, prompting formal investigations by the then-county council.

A major incident was declared on the Somerset Levels and Moors in January 2023, following the eighth wettest period of wet weather since 1891.

Huge volumes of rain that fell during a storm in September 2023, around Taunton and in the west of Somerset, with around 50 properties and businesses being affected.

In light of these events, Somerset Council has urged residents to have their say on the SRA’s future, allowing public money to be spent as effectively as possible at a time of severe financial pressure.

A spokesman said: “Twice as many properties have been flooded in Somerset in 2022/23 then were flooded in 2013/14 and it is important to look at the challenge across the county.

“We cannot say for sure that recent flood events are a result of climate change, but all the evidence says that these events will become more frequent and more severe in the future.

“That makes it more important than ever that a county like Somerset which is prone to flooding looks at building its resilience to flooding and adapting to the impacts of it.”

The draft plan will be discussed by the SRA board when it meets in Bridgwater on Friday morning (January 19).