COUNCILLORS are demanding changes to the planning system to protect homes in Shepton Mallet and a neighbouring village from future flooding.

Shepton Mallet - especially the Bowlish area - and Croscombe were badly hit by floods in October 2020, with 26 homes hit following days of torrential rain.

Somerset Council has finally published its investigation into the cause of the floods, which blames heavy rainfall for overwhelming the River Sheppey and the local sewage system.

But councillors claim numerous listed buildings were denied better protection after the council’s conservation officers refused permission to install flood prevention measures on the properties.

Cllr Mike Stanton told the council's climate and place scrutiny committee: “Owners of listed buildings found that conservation officers refused permission to put flood defences on their buildings, such as floodgates.

“We need to take a more relax approached, because we are in effect preferring that a listed building is flooded rather than there being a floodgate on the front."


The flood water reached more than 9cm in the Bowlish area, with some properties flooded for at least 24 hours.

The report identified the cause of the floods as “almost continuous rainfall” between September 30 and October 4, 2020 – up to 14 times the October average – which “saturated” the catchment area.

In addition, the steep valley sides of the River Sheppey catchment directed surface water downhill into the river “very quickly”, overwhelming the “historic” weirs and other structures.

With the river unable to cope with these additional volumes of water, floodwater also found its way into the local sewer network, which was quickly stretched to capacity.

Cllr Alan Bradford said: “Rules and regulations have overridden common sense. We’ve got to work around these situations.”

Cllr Henry Hobhouse said: “The Somerset Rivers Authority and the Environment Agency are asking each household to defend itself and be responsible for their own flood defences...we need to change that.”

Cllr Bente Height said: “The EA used to clear the River Sheppey once a year – but it hasn’t been done for years. There have been trees lying in the river blocking the channel.”

Cllr Dave Mansell said: “We are getting multiple flooding events in the Upper Tone area, and common causes appear to be issues with drainage not being well-maintained on the highway side, and ditches not being maintained by landowners.

“It’s quite common that where there’s flooding, silt is being washed off fields where maize is being grown.”

Among numerous recommendations, the council’s report recommends a full study of the River Sheppey and its tributaries, with suggested changes to reduce blockages and carry water away from the town more efficiently.

Other recommendations include: a review of highway gully; a survey of weirs and culverts to ensure they can handle additional water; and a review of existing sewage capacity by Wessex Water.