PLANS costing more than £20million to prevent significant flooding on the Levels and improving the county’s roads will be completed this year, Somerset County Council revealed.
The scheme will see £4m spent improving capacity of the River Sowy, including raising the A372 to help prevent many homes in Moorland and surrounding areas flooding again.
It would also see a quarter of a million pounds to raise roads near Muchelney and Thorney to prevent the villages being cut off by flood water again, with a further £12m being spent on key roads such as the A361 and many other roads around the county.
At a news conference in the old school building in Burrowbridge, which has become the help headquarters for the area, council leader John Osman said: “All of these schemes will be completed this year.
“The 20 year flood action plan makes it absolutely clear that we cannot promise to stop all flooding. Instead we are looking to reduce the frequency, depth and duration of potential flooding.
“Some of the money we’ve been given by Government, we’ve been told that it has got to go on the road network. We have done our best to manoeuvre the funds into the most appropriate places. This is the start, not the end. We are going to campaign for further funding.”
Cllr Osman said that £100 million should be enough to get Somerset’s flood prevention and defences to where they need to be.
Cllr Osman added: “Somerset has been really poorly funded over the years in every way, from education to the grants that we get from central Government. Successive Governments love to support the South East and North rather than the South West and that’s frustrating.
“All we’re asking for is our fair share, and if we had our fair share then we could put more money towards this. We only need it once and if we get it once, we won’t flood again.
“After last year’s flooding, we were told it’s a once in a 50 year storm and it won’t happen again. When it happens twice in just over a year, it makes you think it’s not one in a 50 year event. It could become a new norm, so we obviously need to protect ourselves as best we can.”
Heather Venn, FLAG member and farmer who attended the meeting, said: “If the money is coming down in a ring fenced way then it’s very difficult for the county to spend it in on anything else.
“The press conference was about flood prevention; well, repairing roads isn’t flood prevention.
“We have got to be really mindful that this is money coming in that wasn’t in the first place. The fact that the dredging has started is great.
“We have to keep behind the county council who is leading on this to make sure we’re all working towards the same end.”