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Somerset floods roads recovery plan gets go-ahead

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: May 13, 2014

By Tina Rowe

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The go-ahead has been given for £20 million of road maintenance and improvements to help protect Somerset roads from future floods.

The sums include £7.7million of the £10 million allocated to Somerset by Government to kick-start the 20-year Somerset Levels and Moors Action Plan.

Cabinet member for transport councillor Harvey Siggs approved the spending yesterday as part of the council's determination to improve resilience, help communities and protect jobs in the wake of the worst floods to hit the area in living memory.

The total includes £4 million for a joint Somerset County Council and Environment Agency scheme to raise the A372 and install sluice gates and enlarge the culvert carrying the river Sowy. This will not only stop road flooding, but reduce the frequency and duration of flooding on the Levels and Moors.

A further £1.6 million will be spent on rebuilding and resurfacing roads. Another £270,000 will be spent on feasibility studies for raising one road into Muchelney, the A361 between East Lyng and Burrowbridge and the A372 at Beer Wall.

The approval by Councillor Siggs will enable the individual schemes to be finalised in detail. The decision follows consultations with council members and external organisations including the Environment Agency.

It also includes a one-off severe weather recovery grant of £12.3 million from the Department of Transport for resilience repairs, and is on top of the £20 million to which the council is committed in its Local Transport Plan for 2014-2015.

The Local Transport Plan, drawn up before the winter floods struck, cutting off some villages on the Levels for weeks, includes £1.8 million for maintenance to bridges and structures.

The Severe Weather Recovery cash will be used to repair bridges and other structures, provide more resilient surfaces, repair damaged footways and repair rights of way. Deep cleaning drainage systems and verge works alone will cost £1 million. Stabilising and reconstructing embankments will cost £500,000.

Many householders are still living in temporary housing, still discussing issues with insurance companies, and do not expect to be back home before Christmas. Businesses, including farmers were badly hit, with farmland expected to take two years to recover.

Among other measures the Action Plan says the Environment Agency must dredge five miles of the rivers Parrett and Tone; increase the capacity of the river Sowy and King Sedgemoor Drain; invest in flood management and infrastructure solution; accelerate the construction of a barrier or sluice at Bridgwater to be built by 2024, and to establish a Somerset Rivers Board to improve water management of the Levels and Moors.

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