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. The Country Land and Business Association welcomed Environment Secretary Owen Paterson’s written ministerial statement on reducing the threat of future flooding.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.CLA President Henry Robinson said: “We welcome the publication of the plan containing the views of local authorities, government agencies and other stakeholders and trust Mr Paterson will give it his full support.“Mr Paterson’s written ministerial statement this morning and in particular his commitment to dredging - initially of eight kilometre stretches of the Brue and Parrett - is also good news, as is the pledge to review the need for further dredging.“We strongly suspect further dredging will be required, not least because land in the Axe and Brue catchments has also been under water for many months.“However, dredging is only part of the answer. Landowners, local authorities, the Environment Agency and drainage boards all need to work together on this.”Mr Robinson reiterated the CLA’s call for a sustainable and funded system in which costs, rights and responsibilities are fairly shared.He said: “We welcome the proposal that a Somerset Rivers Board with responsibility for future governance should be put in place and, as the representative of landowners in the catchment areas, we look forward to playing a part in it.“Active land management within the upper, middle and lower catchments has an important role to play in future mitigation of the impacts of 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.Water levels continue to fall on the Somerset Levels as the country’s largest ever pumping operation continues, but one severe flood warning remains in force in the area as there are still properties flooded, roads closed and rail links disrupted.In Hampshire, continuing minor river flooding is expected from the River Test in Romsey, the Somborne Stream in Kings Somborne and from the rivers Itchen and Meon.Ground water levels also remain exceptionally high across much of the south of England, causing a continued risk of flooding around Croydon as well as in Hambledon, Basingstoke and Lower Farringdon in Hampshire, where properties could see more flooding this week.High ground water levels are also increasing the flood risk in parts of Dorset, Wiltshire, West Sussex, West Berkshire, South Gloucestershire, Kent, Surrey and Brighton and Hove. The Environment Agency is supporting local authorities and utility companies as they respond to incidents of ground water flooding.