£100m flood plan on Somerset Levels

Braintree and Witham Times: Prime Minister David Cameron with Bridgwater and West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger during a visit to Somerset Prime Minister David Cameron with Bridgwater and West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger during a visit to Somerset

David Cameron is being urged to back a £100 million package to protect the Somerset Levels from more devastating floods.

An action list drawn up by residents calls for a new tidal barrier at Bridgwater, raising the level of key roads and extensive dredging of rivers.

Bridgwater and West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger, who will deliver the 20-year plan to Downing Street later, said he was confident the Government would support the measures.

"The Prime Minister made it very clear that money would be no object on this," he sad. "If we are going to secure the Levels for the future we are going to have to do this.

"We are one of the biggest economies in the world. We can afford it.

"The Prime Minister is fully aware of the cost of putting the Levels back and securing it."

Mr Liddell-Grainger added: "I think the Government would be in a difficult position if they did not (agree to the plan) because as sure as night follows day, this will happen again."

The report, requested by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson six weeks ago, proposes a tidal barrage across the River Parrett downstream of Bridgwater. However, it admits that could take up to 15 years and cost up to £30 million.

It suggests raising the levels of the A361 and the A362 to stop communities such as Muchelney being cut off by floods.

Dredging five miles of the rivers Tone and Parrett should start at the end of the month, costing an initial £5.5 million and then £1.2 million annually.

The 23-page document says: "The total cost of the measures identified within this plan are in excess of £100 million over the next 10 years.

"This figure is clearly beyond the amount that local partners can provide alone without having to undermine essential services, or make difficult and divisive choices on critical issues like growth and infrastructure provision at both the local and LEP (local enterprise partnership) level.

"If this wasn't the case, Somerset partners would have already completed many of the actions identified.

"We also recognise that there are competing pressures from other parts of the country and the plan should not be viewed a wish list.

"It is an assessment of what can be done to avoid a repeat of the events of the last three months on the Levels and moors, and recognises the choices and decisions that will be needed on the best mix of approaches and actions to provide long-term security to those worst-affected communities."

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