Just like the water, feelings are running high amongst people in the Burrowbridge area as they face the trial of living with floods for the second year running. An anxious group of worried locals gathered at the marooned pub, The King Alfred on the swollen banks of the River Parrett, to voice their feelings of helplessness to Rebecca Pow, Prospective MP for Taunton Deane, the first politician who has ventured near them.
‘We feel misinformed, abandoned and let down, the authorities seem to have forgotton what they said to us last year about dredging the rivers and controlling the flooding,’ said local famer James Winslade.
‘It’s a much bigger issue than people realise,’ says Rebecca Pow, herself a rural journalist, ‘the flooding has not just threatened peoples’ homes, it has been really tough for businesses around here, trade is right down at the King Alfred pub, employees can’t get to their jobs and many parents have had to take extensive detours via Bridgwater and Taunton to get their children to school in Stoke St Gregory because of road closures. Farmers face losing hundreds of acres of pasture land which they had re-seeded to the tune of thousands of pounds after last years’ floods as it may not withstand a prolonged period underwater. We were told that the floods last year were a one in a 100 years event and it’s happened again.’
John Davison runs a business on Stathe Road in Burrowbridge and business has been severely affected:
‘I employ 50 people in my ventilation company and people can’t get in or out to work, the container lorries have been hampered from accessing the yard, it’s been very difficult.’
Sally Taylor, who runs the Kings Alfred pub below Burrow Mump is desperate;’ We’ve had cancellations, people can’t get here, they’re too frightened to venture out. Our turnover is down £2000 a week for this time of year. It’s so uncertain, unpredictable.’
Ninety per cent of Farmer, Heather Venn’s Laburnum Farm at Stoke St Gregory is underwater and she is calling for help and understanding of the wider issues:
‘We had a terrible time last year so we negotiated and debated and were promised that action would be taken to stop this occurring again. Our trust in the Environment Agency has been destroyed. The River Parrett is running at only 58% of it’s capacity because it is so silted up. Budgets for regular dredging have been reduced, this is not about flood defences it’s about maintenance. If the River Parrett was dredged and maintained all this could be prevented. Farmers would do the dredging themselves given the chance!’
A key concern is the closure of the major strategic routeway, the A361 for another winter, as local resident Andy Orton points out:
‘The A361 is a major thoroughfare through Somerset, the flooding affects everyone using it. The strategic impact of it’s closure has a huge affect on the economy of Somerset. Dredging the Rivers Parrett and Tone would have a huge influence because not only would it help protect over a hundred houses in the catchment area it would also help threatened businesses that cannot function properly without the road being open.’
Prospective MP, Rebecca Pow will be speaking out to improve matters for the future: ‘There is much at stake here and I will be urging all the organisations involved to speak to each other to come up with a plan that will prevent communities sinking under the sheer volume of water whenever we experience high volumes of rainfall. The plan to raise £3million through the Somerset Levels Relief Fund formulated by the Royal Bath and West, the Environment Agency, Internal Drainage Boards, NFU and Somerset County Council could offer a way forward and I applaud this pro-active approach. If the money could be found to carry out a dredging programme then future maintenance of the river, that pays due reference our precious environment too, will be a key to preventing floods like this in the future.’
Picture caption: Local business people, friends, neighbours and children turn out to tell Prospective Conservative MP for Taunton Deane, and rural journalist, Rebecca Pow, (centre of picture with child,) about the desperate difficulties caused to their work and private lives by another bout of extreme flooding around Burrowbridge in Somerset.
Picture credit: Alain Lockyer
For further information: Rebecca Pow 07900 685 303, [email protected]