SOMERSET Drainage Boards will call on all local authorities, agencies and services to unite behind an all-embracing strategy to reduce the threat of flooding in the county at a top-level meeting on Friday (March 15).

Nick Stevens, Chief Executive of the Somerset Drainage Boards Consortium, will reinforce the need for a sustainable, whole-catchment approach.

Speaking in advance of the Somerset Flooding Summit, he said: “This is an opportunity for organisations, local authorities and communities across the county to unite and promote a way forward which is both affordable and sustainable.”

Repeated and prolonged flooding saw many businesses in Somerset waterlogged three times last year and farmland under water for many months.

The Environment Agency has now agreed that desilting, or dredging, would substantially alleviate flooding and reduce disruption and financial consequences to the county, but the estimated £2million cost and future maintenance funding cannot be met under the Government’s current funding criteria.

Nick will explain to the countywide meeting how the flood risk to the Somerset Levels and Moors has increased, not only through deterioration in the condition of the rivers, but also because of urban development and changes to land management in the catchment areas of the rivers Parrett and Tone.

He said: “The key is to tackle the flooding problem on a whole-catchment basis. For many years now, the rate at which floodwater comes off the higher land surrounding the Levels and Moors has been increasing. Yet instead of improving the capacity of the rivers to cope with the extra challenge, we have allowed them to become silted up."