As home owners on the Somerset Levels examine their filthy houses and volunteers get to work cleaning up the monumental mess left behind by the floodwater that has saturated the area since December, the Government has published a £100 million action plan, of which some £22 million has already been raised, designed to prevent a disaster on this scale from happening again.
The 23-page Somerset Levels and Moors Flood Action Plan, which has been put together by the County Council, the Environment Agency and residents, aims to stop flooding occurring in the first place or to reduce the impact more quickly when it does.
Proposed measures in the 20 year plan include a barrage downstream of Bridgwater, raising roads to villages such as Muchelney (which has been marooned for 10 weeks) and the railway line, maintaining a permanent pump and dredging five miles of the Rivers Tone and Parrett in an effort to restore them to the same condition they were in during the 1960s.
The report is of little comfort to some beleaguered locals. ‘Never mind 23 pages, the action plan should be one word long- it starts with d and ends with g and is called dredging,’ says apple farmer Julian Temperley, who still has fields under 6ft of water. ‘The people of Somerset are bemused, angry and disillusioned. The plan says five miles of the River Parrett will be dredged, but it needs to be dredged from end to end. Our river is blocked and it’s going to stay blocked unless we do something about it. The answer is simple-if you want water to go down the sink, you take the plug out.’
Rebecca Horsington from the local flooding action group adds: ‘The clearup operation is going reasonably well, but it’s going to be a long old job and many people will be displaced for a long time. But lots of volunteers are working tirelessly and that does make you feel quite proud.’
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