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Regeneration land 'at risk of flooding'

By This is Somerset  |  Posted: October 22, 2008

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AREAS of land in Radstock earmarked for regeneration have been included in a new map highlighting flood risk warning areas.

Although the Environment Agency withdrew its objections to the scheme after receiving information on flood levels, its new map showing areas which run the risk of flooding about every 50 years includes much of the land planned for 210 homes.

The map was produced as part of an exercise to beef up the flood warning system for households and businesses in Norton-Radstock, and has resulted in scores more properties being included in risk warning areas.

Although the risks are not regarded by the Environment Agency as major, the map does indicate places which run the risk of a flood every 50 years and areas that carry the possibility of flooding every century.

Norton-Radstock Regeneration Company (NRR), the group behind the scheme, is sticking to its plans.

Cate LeGrice-Mack, chairman of NRR, said: "We have not received notice of any change from the Environment Agency.

"Should the circumstances have changed, we would love to hear from them and would take their advice on the way forward."

Radstock Action Group has expressed deep concern.

Its spokesman, Amanda Leon, said: "This is a dramatic change to the assessment, and if that was not serious enough, it only takes account of the natural watercourses. It makes no attempt to assess the risk from run-off, which is agreed to be very high."

The group is calling for new data to be considered.

The new flood warning system means that people who sign up to the scheme can be notified of flood warnings by phone, mobile, fax, pager, text or email.

Cllr Eleanor Jackson (Lab, Radstock) said the flood warning system was good news, but the bad news was that St Nicholas Primary School, church tea rooms and an old people's home now faced increased risks.

People living in the risk areas, mostly along the routes of the Wellow and Snail Brooks, are being advised to join the Environment Agency's free flood warning service, which will give them advance warning. In the new year they will receive letters setting out their options.

The new map of risk areas is due to come into force on Thursday, December 4, unless a major weather event changes the timetable.

It comes about because the agency has radically refined flood forecasting for the area.

Until recently, the agency has not had historic flooding data, but now a recording station at Welton, metal tubes in the Wellow Brook linked to a telemetry box to record water pressure in the stream, is providing a wealth of new information.

"It's a good news story – you have so much more information now," said agency official Jo Tasker at a flood advice event in Midsomer Norton this week.

The map gives a clear indication of risk areas north of the A362 in Radstock, those surrounding the new St Nicholas Primary School and regeneration land in the town centre. Areas of Thicketmead, Midsomer Norton, have been increased in size.

But the days of near-annual deluges which haunted central Midsomer Norton up until the mid-'70s are unlikely to return this century.

The reason, said agency risk management assessment officer Liane Persaud, is that the town's vast flood alleviation scheme, a deep culvert running from Somervale to Rackvernal Road, completed in 1977, is holding up well.

"We maintain it every year and check for its integrity every five years," she said.

"It is still serving to its 100-years standard. Strategic flood risk assessment officers looked at the tunnel and found it will cope with climate change."

Coombend, which saw floods in the early 1980s because of a faulty culvert, is under assessment.

"The culvert is being surveyed at the moment," said Ms Persaud.

"Because we know we have surveyed in the past, and the condition is quite bad, we are monitoring its condition."

The important issue for the agency is to get people in risk areas to join the warning service, said Ms Tasker.

"We have a better free warning service and anyone in the risk area, and anyone with a relative in those areas, can sign up to it," she added.

For more information call the agency's area office in Bridgwater on 01278 484690.

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