Funding choices for the Somerset Levels MUST deliver better stewardship of Somerset's water environment
FLAG and the RSPB call on flood management and water management authorities to make funding choices for the Somerset Levels that genuinely offer a realistic roadmap to a brighter and safer future.
Following devastating floods in winter 2013/14, Somerset's famous Levels & Moors have been the focus of intense political attention at all levels - both nationally in Westminster & Whitehall but also between the County and Districts. While good progress over the last year has been made implementing a Flood Action Plan that followed the floods, the focus is now falling on critical funding choices for a better future. Stakeholders are being presented with a new report 'Somerset Rivers Authority Funding Review' at a meeting on Friday 24th July .
There are many interests, including communities right across the County, in this conversation, and both FLAG and the RSPB are concerned that political choices over who pays, and via what mechanism, must be locked in with better outcomes for local communities that match the special character and nature of the Somerset Levels.
We believe better outcomes that deliver a resilient future for this special place are not just a function of more investment, but also require a keen focus on effective joined up working and long-term planning.
The funding choices must be underpinned by:
1. A more effective shared approach (joint programming) by the flood and water management authorities.
2. A shared approach that is genuinely, and transparently, focused on enabling resilience and better flood protection for local communities on the Somerset Levels.
3. Acting for the greater good of communities, landowners and the special environmental interests in equal measure wherever possible.
4. Ensuring investment decisions are transparent and wise to deliver best value and sustainable outcomes.
5. Innovative approaches to managing water and the catchment - by looking at new solutions and technologies as well as looking at past procedures that have worked well.
FLAG spokesperson Rebecca Horsington said:
"Leaders in London and Somerset must deliver a funding mechanism that is fair for all of those that live in the catchment area. The monies raised need to be used efficiently and in a transparent fashion so that everybody concerned can see the benefits.
This should not be a question of politics but an assimilation of all local people who live and work in Somerset. Whoever ends up havingmultimate responsibility for the waterways needs to operate with a joined up approach. Above all they need to be lean, mean, timely and efficient."
Mark Robins, Senior Policy Officer for the RSPB said:
"The choices being made right now in this funding review need to be the right choices - that genuinely drive better outcomes - for the people, the businesses and the outstanding environment of this extraordinary place called the Somerset Levels."
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