April 14, 2017
What is Somerset Rivers Authority proposing to do in 2017/18, with its £2.843m from Council Tax?
Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA) provides a higher standard of flood risk management than is affordable from the existing budgets of Somerset’s flood risk management authorities. As in 2016/17, the SRA’s 2017/18 programme focuses heavily on providing extra maintenance as existing funding streams are insufficient to cover this important need. The programme proposes: £2.4m for 23 schemes (with hundreds of different activities and elements), £150k towards the major Sowy/King’s Sedgemoor Drain project, and to support both this programme and the delivery of Growth Deal-funded SRA projects (£3.6m), £200k on four SRA staff and overheads (3% of the total budget).
What extra maintenance work will be done?
23 sets of work are proposed across Somerset. The SRA will provide maintenance dredging of the rivers Parrett and Tone and monitoring of silt build-up, extra desilting of smaller river channels, rhynes (ditches) and under bridges (11 locations planned, across all districts, from Timberscombe in the west to Witham Friary near Frome in the east, and from Ding near Ilminster up to Litton near Chewton Mendip), plus the repair and removal of blockages from an extra 700 culverts across the county. West Somerset streams (including Doniford, Horner, Traphole, and Washford) and West Sedgemoor and Aller Moor rhynes will continue to benefit from annual as opposed to bi-annual maintenance. The SRA will fund normally unfundable repairs so as to maintain flood risk management assets in Mendip (river revetment repairs in Frome will help to protect 300 properties) and across Sedgemoor. Extra CCTV surveys of drainage systems countywide will provide the accurate knowledge that enables requests to riparian owners to remedy problems - and/or enforcement.
To reduce local flooding of highways, particularly in rural areas, the SRA will provide more frequent gully emptying and preventative jetting than is usually affordable, plus road sweeping, in areas most susceptible to flooding. The SRA will also provide development funding for a major scheme to store water above Taunton, improve Taunton town centre flood defences, and investigate further options at places such as French and Firepool weirs and Bathpool. The whole scheme is a crucial component of the pioneering Taunton Garden Town initiative. It will allow 4,350 new homes and 10,000 new jobs to be safely brought forward and protect existing properties and businesses. The SRA will part-fund a demonstration project to retrofit a sustainable drainage system into retail parking/industrial estate in the Tone and/or Parrett catchments. Other funding for this SuDS project comes from the EU and is unaffected by Brexit. The SRA will continue its investment in helping communities become more resilient to flooding and its impacts with a revamped programme of projects and initiatives. This will involve working with communities, households, businesses, and landowners to assist them in preparing and adapting, so as to reduce their vulnerability.
What capital schemes will Somerset Rivers Authority support?
Recognising the importance of slowing the flow in the upper catchment and reducing run-off in urban areas, the SRA will provide advice and support to communities and landowners for natural flood management. Investigations will continue into whether better land management could help to solve highway flooding problems (107 sites were investigated in 2016-17, including 50 in West Somerset) and – in a new initiative – advisory farm visits will seek to increase the uptake of soil management techniques and cropping changes that improve the infiltration of water and reduce run-off. Five schemes will reduce flooding on highways, along the A38 at both Chelston and Rumwell (where the drainage system is 90+ years old and needs improvements), the A372 at Huish Episcopi (re-designed drainage system at Pibsbury Corner), Stoke sub Hamdon (upgrades at East Stoke), and Lower Bilbrook (drainage improvements to stop hamlet being cut off). Plus:
Pumping station improvements at Westonzoyland (doubling pump capacity) and West Sedgemoor (new trash screen with automatic clearing machinery)
Improvements to 240 failing water level control structures, to build and maintain the resilience to flooding of wet grassland upstream of Langport, and bring extra benefits to farming and wildlife for the next 20-30 years. New infrastructure and land management will better manage flood water and seasonal water levels
What other work will Somerset Rivers Authority fund?
In addition to the funding provided by Somerset’s local authorities, the SRA receives funding from Somerset’s Internal Drainage Boards and the Heart of the South West LEP Growth Deal. In 2017/18, these funds will be used to keep developing a major scheme to enhance the capacity of 20km of the River Sowy/King’s Sedgemoor Drain river system, develop the Bridgwater Tidal Barrier project (which will protect 10,000 homes and 600 businesses), dredge selected stretches of the River Brue, and continue the ‘Hills to Levels’ capital grant scheme for natural flood management in Somerset – more than 50 schemes have been completed so far, out of nearly 90 applications submitted.
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