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Somerset Levels dredging call raises £30,000 in four days

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 15, 2014

By Tina Rowe

dredge

The village of Muchelney, near Langport, remains cut off by floodwater PICTURE: SWNS

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A public appeal to raise cash to dredge rivers on the Somerset Levels and "shame the Government" into match-funding has raised £30,000 in just four days.

The Royal Bath & West Society launched the appeal to raise between £1 million and £2 million.

Society members, particularly those who sit on its council, had pledged £30,000 by Monday, just four days after a formal appeal letter went out from former Royal Bath & West Society chairman Edwin White. Yesterday Mr White said it is vital for fund-raising that dredging is not a "one off" event, and that those who are involved on the Levels have the maintenance and management of rivers in the future.

The society has had meetings over several months with various public bodies involved with the issues.

"I am really lifted and delighted by the progress we are making," he said. "I don't think any sensible financial contribution will be made for a scheme which dredges the rivers once and leaves the future vague. We have to have an assurance that those who are involved on the Levels have the management and maintenance regime in the future to keep the rivers clear."

He stressed that the initial dredging carried out with appeal fund money will be done by the group or agency best able to show value for money.

The Environment Agency stopped dredging rivers 18 years ago, saying it was: "uneconomic." Silt build-up means the Tone and Parrett are running at only 60 per cent of their potential capacity.

The village of Muchelney was still surrounded by floodwater yesterday. The A361 Taunton to Glastonbury road is still closed, forcing business and private motorists to make long detours, and thousands of acres of farmland are under water. After the 2012 floods the Environment Agency agreed dredging would help, but the agency does not have enough money to pay for the £3 million work.

Somerset County Council has invited Government ministers and flood experts to see the devastation first hand as part of its Fairer Funding campaign for more Government investment in flood prevention in the county. Ministers from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and members of the all-party Parliamentary group on flooding have been lobbied.

Leader of Somerset County Council, councillor John Osman, is encouraging people to get behind the campaign bysharing photos on the Fairer Funding for Somerset Facebook page or by using Twitter hashtag #fairerfundingforsomerset

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