Somerset Levels in flood

Parts of Somerset have recently been identified as among the 3 most vulnerable areas to coastal flooding in England.

Climate change means that severe 1-in-100 years flood events are likely to become twice as frequent by the 2050s and sights like these will become commonplace unless something is done.
The harrowing and devastating effects of the flooding experienced by individuals living and working on the Somerset Levels in the winter of 2013/14 cannot be overestimated and the long-term economic cost to the area is estimated by the Somerset Rivers Authority to be in the region of £147 million.
Reimagining the Levels solution to flooding

In the aftermath of the flooding in 2013/14, a Task Force that combined the interests of farmers, environmental bodies and local authorities produced a nine-point vision for how they wanted the Levels and Moors to be in 20 years.

Reimagining the Levels believe that this vision needs significant updating as it does not take full account of the scale of the challenges now facing the area, the formation of Somerset Rivers Authority and the impact of changes to farming policy following exit from the Common Agricultural policy.

The Reimagining the Levels report identifies how:

• Poor decisions by some Local Planning Authorities have allowed development in locations that are likely to increase flood risk and/or have failed to provide adequate flood management infrastructure,

• Poor maintenance of urban and rural drainage infrastructure has occurred over many years,

• Farming policy has led to the impoverishment of agricultural soil that increase the speed of soil run off and the likelihood of downstream flooding, and

• Uncertainty over the future of funding for the Somerset Rivers authority impacts on long-term proactive work to address the causes of flooding.

Our Project Report

Reimagining the Levels, Making the Connections

Reimagining the Levels solutions to the flooding are identified in detail on page 11 of the Main Report (above right) but in essence it advocates:

• All new development should be ‘flood positive’, meaning that care is taken when identifying potential development sites so that less flood water is generated.

• Attenuation ponds and other Sustainable urban drainage (SuDs) measures to reduce runoff from hard surfaces must be designed, maintained  and monitored in the long term to ensure that they permanently contribute to flood risk reduction, taking climate change into account.

• Local authorities should be awarded resources to identify and install key sites in their area which should be retrofitted with SuD measures. Tree planting within large areas of tarmac are a simple but obvious example.

• Where flooding from watercourses is a particular threat to  urban areas downstream, sites for washland creation by setting back river banks and allowing flooding after peak rainfall conditions must be identified and constructed.

• The condition of the soil is improved via changes in agricultural land use and management with less maize and continuous cereal production.

• The impact of the rapid expansion of maize for use as a biomass crop and for animal feed must be urgently assessed and a policy developed of limiting the area of maize where it is contributing to flooding

If you are interested to know more about any of these issues the Report provides substantive detail.

Or you can contact Phil Stone here with specific questions.