Press release

New action plan to protect Somerset from flooding

Owen Paterson announces an action plan to better protect Somerset.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Flood sign

Homes and businesses in Somerset will be better protected from the risk of flooding under a new action plan outlined by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson today.

The plan was commissioned by the Environment Secretary in January after exceptional weather caused large scale flooding and aims to improve resilience against floods on the Somerset Levels.

Drawn up by local partners in the region, including the local councils, MPs, businesses and local residents, it sets out a number of initiatives that will ensure better protection against floods in the future, including:

  • Immediate plans to dredge 8km of the Rivers Parrett and Tone as soon as it is safe and practical to do so;
  • Making some temporary flood defences and pumping sites permanent;
  • Helping local partners take more responsibility for water management on the Levels through a new Somerset rivers board;
  • Supporting farmers to manage flood risk better; and
  • Ensuring new developments meet the highest standards for water and drainage.

To help deliver the plan, the government is investing an additional £10 million to support the recovery effort in Somerset to fix damaged roads and improve the network’s ability to cope with tough weather conditions and flooding.

An extra £500,000 is also being made available from the Severe Weather Recovery Fund to help people on the Somerset levels get back on their feet and prevent future flooding, in addition to funding provided to local authorities under the Bellwin Scheme.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said:

The exceptional weather over the past few months has taken its toll on flood prone communities.

Six weeks ago I visited Somerset and saw for myself the exceptional impact on the county. That is why I commissioned urgent work from those at local level to identify how we can better protect Somerset communities over the next 20 years.

The plan we have received today includes some immediate actions that will help do this and I’m pleased that dredging will start as soon as it is safe to do.

We will continue to work with local partners on other proposals to ensure we secure a sustainable future for communities on the Somerset Levels.

Somerset County Council Leader John Osman addded:

This is a big step forward, bringing hope to our flood-hit communities. We have worked with government and other partners to find solutions in the short, medium and long term, for what we can do now and what we need to plan for in the future.

The Somerset Levels action plan also outlines a number of long-term proposals to ensure Somerset is better equipped to deal with the risk of flooding in the future. They include helping local partners take more responsibility for water management on the Levels through a new Somerset rivers board, and supporting farmers to manage flood risk better.

In addition to support for Somerset, the government has today announced further measures to help fishermen affected by the recent storms, pledging to make financial support under the European Fisheries Fund to reimburse up to 60% of the cost of replacing lost or damaged fishing gear such as lobster pots. The government will also continue to pay lighthouse dues for another year, saving the industry up to £140,000.

The publication of the action plan follows the Prime Minister’s announcement of an extra £10 million to help Somerset deal with - and recover from – the severe floods bringing the additional funding to Somerset specifically to more than £20 million.

Published 6 March 2014