Major Flood Incident Declared on the Somerset Levels

Somerset underwater once more

On Wednesday morning the Environment Agency (EA) and the local authorities in Somerset announced a major incident as a precautionary measure due to flood risk in the Levels and Moors. Somerset County Council is now working with partners including Mendip District Council, Sedgemoor District Council, Somerset West and Taunton Council, South Somerset District Council, the Environment Agency, Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA) and others to prepare for worst case scenarios and support local communities. Since Wednesday an emergency centre has been set up in Bridgwater with teams from multiple agencies working together to identify vulnerable people and consider further actions, like evacuation plans, should they be required if the situation worsens. The group is also looking ahead to recovery. Staff from County and District Councils and the SRA have been supporting the Environment Agency with community drop-ins in Moorland and Burrowbridge. In the past 48 hours the weather has been mostly dry which has allowed enhanced pumping to take place. Although it is an improving picture, the major incident remains in place as a precaution. The very cold temperatures this week have also provided a different set of challenges both in terms of Highways winter service and public health/health and safety.

Flooding once Moor

However, Labour members in the area have been unhappy at the response up to this point with 2014 flood victim Julian Taylor who lives at the flooding epicentre, saying “The possibility of flooding was raised over 3 weeks ago. Local analysis of telemetry of river level and weather patterns predicted that this would happen. The trigger points were met on the 9th January and pumps were promised by last Friday yet none were operational until Tuesday. The guys on the ground were excellent but EA programme management was at fault. We even had an EA circular which described Northmoor as a reservoir which could be flooded at will. £118m was spent by agencies in the 2014 flood, think of that now with inflation, plus the individual cost to insurance companies. And our MP has not responded to emails or phone calls!”

Sean Dromgoole of Langport Town Council said “Personally I think they’ve dodged a bullet this time and have a chance with this current clear spell to clear the decks. What those of us who live on the Parrett know is that the Sowey fills up incredibly quickly and overflows almost immediately into the surrounding fields – and we haven’t seen dredging/clearance on the Parrett for years. The agricultural disruption is just part of it, all of us have to replan our journeys because roads are closed when the water is rising.  “

Rhona Light , who lives in the affected area said “The EA have followed the Triggers for extra pumps and flood alleviation actions, but it’s obvious that those triggers will need to be revised. Currymoor filled at a terrifying rate and if the bad weather had continued we would have been in big trouble. This is the sharp end of climate change. Somerset needs to embed climate change into its thinking. It can’t be ignored. “

Impact on Bridgwater

The fields are filling up again

Meanwhile, in Bridgwater, the EA began to install five pumps at the Docks to enable the use of the canal as an additional channel to evacuate water from Park Brook and Northmoor.

Town Council Leader Brian Smedley (Westover) says “This is a concern because whilst they say this will not increase the risk of flooding it certainly increases the potential of something going wrong. Town Council is on standby to assist where required and support centres are being identified if the situation escalates. This will continue to be an issue so long as we fail to tackle climate change. In 1997 I was in the Czech Republic when major floods happened, including to our twin town Uherske Hradiste. At the time they told me it was ‘stoleti voda’ the ‘hundred year water’ and they wouldn’t see it again for another hundred years. It happened again in 2002. ”

Looks nice…but isn’t

Julian Taylor, who was evacuated from his Fordgate home in the middle of the night in 2014 remains concerned. “My concerns are that we have some moors under water now and the weather patterns are very similar to those that pertained in January 2014.You can understand why I and a number of other people are worried about the potential for being flooded.  Our flood warden is preparing to advise people on what do in the event of having a flood.  Important papers photographs and heirlooms to places of safety. I was reassured by the visit from Ian Sturdy of the Drainage Board who was able to say that the situation was not as serious as in 2014.However I think the Somerset Moors are likely to be flooded to a greater extent now than previously experienced after 2014.There has been increased expenditure , funded by the all of Somerset, parts of the Tone and Parrett have been ‘dredged’ using air injection. The main drains and pumping stations have been updated. The secondary rhynes which are the responsibility of the landowners have not, some of these waterways are blocked. The EA have said that they do not have the resources to inspect them, and certainly have not been pro-active in seeing that they are kept clear.  Rebecca Pow has been asked why landowners are not asked to keep ditches clear.”

Levelling Down

Water levels at dangerous heights

Julian Taylor  continued “There is local concern that excess  water from the new developments around Taunton  and will be displaced on the moors, around Moorland and Fordgate and be increasing the risk of flooding.  There is also the situation where water was released from Clatworthy reservoir into the Tone so that the dam would not  overtop and collapse causing inundation in Taunton. We are aware that there was a surge in river level due this water release the day after we were evacuated. South West Water and the EA have refused to published details of the reservoir and river levels even though a request was made under the FoI regulations. “

Cllr Brian Smedley summed up “There are clearly concerns that there could be a repeat of the 2014 floods. The EA budget cuts since 2010 means that the waterways in Somerset  are not being maintained to the required standards so that Somerset remains flood free.  This is particularly important as with climate change, weather pattern changes, that there will be increased rainfall we have to have improved flood defences. We want to emphasise the need for improved flood defences. The Tories who  are failing to manage the crisis in the health and public sectors are now also noticeable by their inactivity with regard to flooding in Somerset.”

0 0 votes
Article Rating
1 Comment
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Richard Morgan
Richard Morgan
1 year ago

Good to see Kier Starmer saying today that there will be no new oil and gas under Labour. We can expect more and worse flooding and need to take drastic action on all fronts right now.

Find your ward using the SCC ward finder

Privacy Policy

To read our Privacy Policy and GDPR compliance statement click here.