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Somerset floods: County "hugely disappointed" over Government cash snub
Updated 8:15am Tuesday 28th January 2014 in News
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- Environment Secretary arrived in Somerset on Sunday
- MP had a briefing at Sedgemoor District Council and has been visiting flood-hit communities today (Monday)
- Government rules out additional funding for flood-hit communities
- Tens of thousands of acres remain under water
- Dredging petition attracts more than 4,000 signatures
Met the residents of Thorney this afternoon who have also been flooded. Heartbreaking to see the effect it has had on their homes and lives— @JDOsman1 27 January 2014
@dredgetherivers The big important politician was not much use today. He seemed more annoyed than anything else about having to be there.— @lewisadam 27 January 2014
THERE are also reports of flooding on a stretch of the A358 Eastcombe to Combe Florey.
Motorists should avoid the area for the time being.
MOTORISTS should be wary of a poor road surface on the A39 at Williton, close to Smithyard Lane.
TAUNTON Racecourse will hold a precautionary 7am inspection of the course ahead of tomorrow's meeting.
Stay up to date on the news from that meeting on our website.
Locals welcomed Env Sec, Paterson on the levels. Somerset's flooding issues finally taken seriously @dredgetherivers http://t.co/9j0mxYW5dI— @pow_rebecca 27 January 2014
3:23pm Mon 27 Jan 14
St. Austell says
Did anyone think that a visit to the Levels by Paterson was going to achieve anything of significance having regard to the inhabitants having no significant lobby to influence the outcome of the next general election? As far as Paterson is concerned its a matter of:
"I care not for your predicament: I'm inboard."
As a side issue on reading:
"Owen Paterson has arrived at Northmoor Pumping Station with a small police
who is paying for the police presence at this time, the Somerset taxpayer no doubt?
Kate Marks, Environment Agency flood risk manager, has said dredging of rivers on the Somerset Levels would not have prevented flooding.
She said: “The country has faced an extraordinary combination of weather conditions over the last six weeks and our thoughts are with those communities that have and are experiencing flooding.
“We are doing everything we can to pump water off the Somerset Levels and have 65 pumps working 24-7 in the biggest pumping operation ever undertaken in the county.
“Nationally we spent £45m in the last financial year on river clearance, including dredging and weed removal and de-silting work was last carried out on pinch points on the Parrett and Tone rivers in November.
"However, dredging is often not the best long term or economic solution and increased dredging of rivers on the Somerset Levels would not have prevented the recent widespread flooding."
EU money make big diff but UK Treasury won't apply help @grahamwatsonmep & me in the campaign.People are in desperate situation NOW— @cllrjaybaker 27 January 2014
The A358 is closed due to flooding between New Road (Combe Florey) and Watts Lane (Eastcombe). It is affecting traffic between Taunton and Williton.
Moorland residents sending a message to Owen Paterson on his visit to Somerset this morning #dredgetherivers http://t.co/fGR5SoWjVz— @dredgetherivers 27 January 2014
RT @SomersetLabour: "Con Dem MPs voted through these Environment Agency cuts" points out Sedgemoor Labour leader http://t.co/AWhJOKwZXu htt…— @WestoverLabour 27 January 2014
The Environment Agency says overall there is “slightly less” flood water on the Levels and Moors than two weeks ago.
A spokesman said that is due to “extensive pumping operations and gravity drainage of the system”.
He added: “We now estimate there is in excess of 65 million cubic metres of floodwater on the land.
“We are currently carrying out the single largest pumping operation ever experienced in Somerset.
“In addition to our 40 permanent pumps, we have mobilised a further 25 temporary units. We are currently pumping at a higher rate than that during the 2000 and 2012 flood events.
“We have brought in extra manpower from around the country to support our teams who have been working 24/7 on the flooding incident for the past month.
“We have teams out in the field 24/7 operating and clearing debris from structures, maintaining the pumps and reinforcing flood banks with sandbags where problems have occurred.”
MP Owen Paterson told reporters earlier today:
"I had a good meeting last night with local farmers and people who understand how the local water system works.
"I held a good meeting with the local MPs this morning to work on a plan which I hope will sort this problem over the next 20 years.
"This area was managed by the Dutch in the Charles I era and national flood guidelines are not appropriate in this part of England because it is an artificial system - it is all below sea level.
"It appears from what everyone is telling me that we need to dredge the two rivers."
Mr Paterson also told reporters that some of the ideas include holding water back on the hills, a flood barrier in Bridgwater, dredging and other flood prevention schemes.
But when the Envrionment Secretary was quizzed whether there would be a 'fast' response to the crippling floods, he said the next step was a six-week plan.
He added: "I totally appreciate how shcoking it is for people to be flooded.
"I have asked all the departments to give me a concrete plan in six weeks plan which will provide satisfaction over the next 20 years.
"That may well involve dredging the two main rivers but also a long-term plan to hold water back, more planting, more SUDS (Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems) further up and possibly a barrage near Bridgwater.
"The locals have six weeks to work with national government, local agencies to come up with a good concrete plan. If they convince me, yes we will sign it off."
RT @EnvAgency: We are currently carrying out the single largest pumping operation ever experienced in #Somerset. #floodaware http://t.co/cY…— @MikePrysRoberts 27 January 2014
Leader of Somerset County Council, John Osman has announced his “disappointment” following news that there will be no immediate extra funding to protect flood-hit communities in Somerset.
However, there was some hope for those communities as Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson announced an action plan for the next 20 years to protect the levels and moors.
Speaking after the visit, Cllr John Osman said: “Although I am hugely disappointed that Central Government have not announced any additional funding we will continue to keep the pressure on to secure a fair deal for Somerset’s residents.
“We are happy to work with Government and other agencies to draw up a long-term plan to protect our communities against flooding but I want to be clear that this is not the end of our fight to lobby Government to support our flood-hit communities”.
Possible projects mentioned by Owen Paterson included a barrage for Bridgwater, dredging rivers, and other flood prevention measures.
Glen Ward, of Thorney, described Mr Paterson's visit as a 'major irritation'.
Mr Ward's house was left submerged by floodwater three weeks ago and of the 20 houses in the village, eight were flooded.
He said: "We have all been really good humoured about it all but Owen Paterson's visit to the area, when he has not even got a pair of wellies on, is a major irritation.
"No doubt all the cameras are there and he can jump in a canoe and have pictures taken of him."
Owen Paterson has arrived at Northmoor Pumping Station with a small police escort.
He has been mobbed by the media, local MPs and people affected by the floods asking for the rivers to be dredged.
River Tone in summer #dredgetherivers #SomersetFloods #FLAG #r4today http://t.co/A2IiIGTQ05— @dredgetherivers 27 January 2014
@OwenPatersonMP Get this Somerset job sorted out. @westyeo @dredgetherivers and the local people need positive news #clubhectare #RT— @sunkfarmer 27 January 2014
Currently 10 flood warnings and 29 flood alerts in the South West. Live flood warnings map: http://t.co/TAKacriIxL #floodaware— @EnvAgencySW 27 January 2014
A petition by the Stop the Floods Campaign has now attracted more than 4,000 signatures.
It was started by Andrew Lee, who believes the series of "catastrophic" floods is "entirely avoidable."
He says he hopes the Secretary of State listens to people who know most about the rivers as he visits the levels today.
Mr Lee added: "We hope that Mr Paterson will provide financial support to those suffering from the floods, to clean up and rebuild lives. But that is dealing with the effect."
To view the petition, click here.
Bridgwater and West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger has welcomed the Government’s direct involvement in the Somerset flooding emergency.
Tens of thousands of acres of the Levels are under water with the Rivers Tone and Parrett too choked with silt to drain the area effectively.
Official estimates now suggest it will be five weeks or more before the floods can be cleared.
Mr Paterson announced he would be visiting the area after Mr Liddell-Grainger secured a Parliamentary debate last Wednesday and made a direct appeal to the Prime Minister on Friday.
He will be discussing demands from people for the Government to fund a one-off dredging programme for the Tone and the Parrett and for maintenance of the two rivers to be handed back thereafter to the local drainage boards.
Mr Liddell-Grainger said Mr Paterson’s arrival was a welcome sign that the Government had accepted the seriousness of the situation.
“I have every confidence that he will also order the swift, decisive action that is needed if the floods are not to do even more damage,” he said.
“I and several others will also be making it clear that it is the Environment Agency’s repeated refusals to dredge the rivers that have resulted in a catastrophic amount of damage being done to homes, businesses and farmland."
The latest flood map from the Environment Agency shows much of Somerset under a flood warning.
Areas covered in red including most of the Somerset Levels mean a flood warning, the agency's second highest category warning, while orange areas have been placed on a flood alert.
ENVIRONMENT Secretary Owen Paterson is due to visit flood-hit communities on the Somerset Levels today (January 27).
Mr Paterson arrived in the county on Sunday night for a briefing at Sedgemoor District Council, but is due meet those at the heart of the destruction later today.
The MP is under pressure to explain why the latest flooding on the levels has been allowed to happen.
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