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8 December 2014, 15:06
Local people in Somerset will be better able to manage flood risk after the Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss announced £1.9 million funding for the Somerset Rivers Authority today that will enable it to start work next year.
The Authority will receive £2.7 million in total from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Somerset County Council, the county’s five other local authorities and the Somerset Consortium of Drainage Boards to reduce the flood risk in the region.
As a result, the Somerset Rivers Authority will be established by the end of January 2015 and will give local people the power to control and manage local flood risk in their area.
In a Memorandum of Understanding signed in London today, it was agreed that Defra will provide £1.9 million, Somerset County Council will provide £600,000 and partners Sedgemoor District Council, Taunton Deane Borough Council, South Somerset District Council, Mendip District Council, West Somerset District Council and Somerset Consortium of Drainage Boards will provide £200,000 for the first year of funding.
A review will be carried out to identify a long-term, local funding solution from 2016/17.
Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss, said:
“Last winter’s floods were unprecedented. We experienced the wettest winter in 200 years, which took its toll on flood prone communities such as Somerset. We have worked hard to protect Somerset from future flooding and to get those affected last winter back on their feet. The dredging of the rivers Parrett and Tone is complete and crucial works to raise key roads in the area has begun. This funding will enable the newly formed Somerset Rivers Authority to make a real difference in its first year. At a national level, we are spending £3.2 billion on flood management and defences over the course of this parliament. That is more than ever before and half a billion pounds more than in the last parliament.”
The Somerset Rivers Authority forms part of the 20 Year Flood Action Plan which was developed at the request of the government in response to the exceptional floods last winter.
Councillor John Osman, Chairman of the Flood Action Plan Leaders Implementation Group and Leader of Somerset County Council, said: “This is an historic milestone for the Flood Action Plan. The creation of the Somerset Rivers Authority is the result of intensive work and close co-operation between partners, with a strong determination on everybody’s part to make this happen so that we can better protect our county from the impact of flooding.”
Following the exceptional flooding in the area last winter, government provided £20.5m to Somerset to help get those affected back on their feet and to improve flood resilience in the area. With the majority of Somerset below sea level the land is vulnerable to both tidal and land-based flooding. The widespread flooding of the Somerset Levels and Moors over the winter of 2014 was just one occurrence in a long record of flood events.
The Authority will focus on enhanced maintenance of river channels and flood banks along the county's waterways, including maintaining the 2014 dredge on the Rivers Parrett and Tone.