FLAG are cautiously optimistic about the proposals made in the 20 Year Plan to protect the Somerset Levels as announced by Somerset County Council today.
We welcome the news that the Government has committed £10 million to the essential dredge of the 8km stretch of the Rivers Tone and Parrett. But more still needs to be done to secure funding for ongoing river maintenance and for essential upgrades to flood management infrastructure on the Somerset Levels and Moors. For example, Northmoor Pumping Station, which is currently scheduled for decommissioning and replacement with mobile pumping facilities, must be upgraded immediately to provide vital flood protection for Moorland village and Bridgwater.
After 20 years of neglect, the river systems on the Somerset Levels need to be restored to good working order and that the Government should help fund this. In the long-term, we feel that a form of local catchment charge is required to help fund the maintenance of our rivers.
The announcement by Mr Paterson that a local Rivers Authority will be established in Somerset is a positive move by the Government. FLAG believes that local governance of Somerset Rivers is essential for the successful management of the Somerset Levels and that this must have strong input from local people.
The combination of local governance by a Somerset Rivers Board and new funding sources from a catchment charge are important steps towards ensuring our Somerset rivers can be maintained to the appropriate standards and for the best value for money. Funding for essential upgrades to flood management infrastructure and much greater involvement of local communities are also needed to reduce the risk of a flooding disaster of this scale ever happening again.