Published: March 19, 2013
Burnham's MP calls for action to prevent future Somerset flooding

Burnham-On-Sea's MP Tessa Munt has called for action to prevent future heavy rain causing a repeat of the damage recently brought to low-lying areas of Somerset.

A flood summit took place in the county on Friday in the wake of the floods that struck late last year – and among the outcomes was an agreement for a major review of how different agencies co-ordinate their work and take responsibility.

At the meeting in Taunton, MP Tessa Munt called for the logging and mapping of every gully, with the help of local communities, and for the county council to give each a priority status for cleaning.

The Somerset Flood Summit looked to learn lessons from recent flooding incidents across the county.

The morning session included presentations from agencies and organisations involved in flood management such as the Environment Agency, Met Office, Somerset County Council, Somerset Internal Drainage Board, Wessex Water and the Country Land and Business Association. A panel question time session saw delegates put their questions to the panel which also included Ian Liddell Grainger MP and Tessa Munt MP.

The afternoon sessions included four workshops which discussed such issues as Community Resilience, Business Continuity/Economic Impact, Flood Prevention and also Inter-agency working. Each was designed to answer points raised by the delegates before the meeting. A plenary session was held where delegates could contribute to the Summit with prepared material.

Tessa said: "We knew that we wouldn’t have all the answers, but having all the key agencies represented is a positive step forward. At the moment the Environment Agency has as one of its aims the protection of housing, habitat and wildlife, which is valid, but they must include the protection of productive land. We need to encourage and protect farmers and not dismiss them."

"I have asked Richard Benyon, the Minister responsible for flooding at DEFRA, to visit my part of the Axe and Brue river valleys so he can see for himself, and meet those who have suffered as a result of flooding. He has agreed and those arrangements are being made at the moment."

Kerry Rickards, Chief Executive of Sedgemoor District Council, said: "The summit is a great initiative which I applaud and an essential part of understanding how the various agencies involved may play their part in trying to mitigate the tragedy for all those affected. This is all about better understanding and co-ordination of efforts to combat flooding in the future. It isn’t just about money, it is how as agencies we work more intelligently with each other, our farming community, our villages and most importantly individual households and businesses who are at risk from future downpours."

"As far as possible we need to agree plans before it rains instead of relying on emergency sandbags as the water levels rise. I am however a realist, there will be things we can do and things we cannot. The enormous forces of nature in an unprecedented flooding event as experienced will determine the depth of floods across much of the Somerset levels. We can, and must, work together to try to mitigate this."

Following the summit, a report will be compiled and circulated to all delegates. The Steering Group will meet again in April to agree how any actions identified at the summit will be taken forward.

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