Villagers who were marooned for weeks are celebrating today as work begins on a major new flood protection ring bank.
Thorney on the Somerset Levels, was one of the communities badly hit by last winter floods. Some villagers had to leave their homes, while disabled mother Lorraine Cattarall, who has multiple sclerosis and painful fibromyalgia, was a prisoner in her home because her condition prevented her from taking the tractor ‘ferry’ laid on by a local farmer.
The new bank will protect 10 houses and the public highway.
It is part of the 20 Year Flood Action Plan for Somerset, in which county and district councils, the Environment Agency, the Somerset Drainage Boards Consortium and other partner and community organisations are collaborating.
Costs of £180,000 have been agreed between Somerset County Council, the Parrett Internal Drainage Board and South Somerset District Council, with financial contributions also from Kingsbury Episcopi Parish Council and the local community.
Local residents have been in discussions with the Parrett Drainage Board about the new bank since the height of last winter’s flooding, and the work will be sited on private land.
Work to improve an existing bank, known as Thorney West Ring Bank, is also set to begin in late summer, on behalf of the Environment Agency.
The Ring Banks are part of wider flood protection plans in the area around Thorney and Muchelney, including a raised road to secure access to Muchelney in times of flood.
The Parrett Drainage Board has now designed the scheme and appointed contractors Bernard G Perry Ltd to carry out the work at Thorney, which will improve flood protection for the village’s 10 houses and the public highway.
Councillor John Osman, Chairman of the Flood Action Plan Leaders Implementation Group and Leader of Somerset County Council, said: “I know everyone is keen to see progress underway before the winter and I am delighted work is now starting on site at Thorney.
“The Flood Action Plan has both short and long term actions as not all the challenges can be solved at once, and milestones such as this are extremely encouraging.”
Local resident and businessman Richard England, who is also a member of the Parrett Drainage Board, said: “I’m absolutely delighted work is starting. Last winter we were over our knees in water – now people in the small hamlet of Thorney will be able to sleep easier in their beds. This gives them real hope.”
Somerset Drainage Boards Consortium and Parrett Drainage Board Chairman Peter Maltby said: “We were very pleased that all the partners involved from the Flood Action Plan have worked together effectively to help the Board to prepare this scheme so quickly.”