At Prime Ministers Question Time today, David Cameron announced that “Dredging on the Levels would begin as soon as it is practical”. Local Labour councillors, who have been vocal in the campaign, were quick to react.
Sedgemoor Labour Group leader and Bridgwater PPC Cllr Mick Lerry said “At last the Government has recognised that something has to be done, regarding the Flooding on the levels. Communities have been inconvenienced since Christmas and now the Government has woken up. It must be humiliating for Owen Patterson to be overruled by the PM two days after visiting the levels.”
Labour councillor and flood victim Cllr Julian Taylor, who took part in the lobby of the Minister on his recent visit to the disaster zone, said “We are told that dredging will begin as soon as it is safe to do so, but it is not just dredging, there will be a need to bring forward the Parrett Barrage as a major infrastructure project. Consideration of how attenuation of water can help to stop homes being flooded and proper flood defences for communities who have been affected. It is important to also realise that any major changes should not move the floodwater to urban areas, such as Bridgwater.”
Westover ward Labour councillor Brian Smedley said “Another over-high tide is expected this weekend and less than a month ago the banks in the town centre were being overwhelmed in places. While they’re handing out sandbags in urban centres like Bridgwater the flood problem remains ongoing. The whole watercourse needs to be managed and the dredging needs to include Bridgwater as well as the upper catchment.”
A statement from Labour’s Shadow Environment secretary Maria Eagle MP said “This admission that clearing rivers is the key to this issue is a huge admission. Only today the advice from the ADA (Association of Drainage Authorities) has been revealed – showing they warned a year ago that the scaling back of dredging would lead to flooding in Somerset.It’s increasingly clear that the decision to cut nearly £100m from the defra budget for flood protection, alongside scaling back dredging, shows Paterson has set the wrong priorities when deciding on implementing cuts in his dept…… no surprise when he continually ignores the science whether on climate change or importance of keeping waterways clear.”