The creation of a Somerset Rivers Authority has been welcomed by South Somerset District Council’s Leader, Councillor Ric Pallister, after Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss announced that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will provide £1.9 million in interim funding to enable the Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA) to be created in January 2015.
This funding together with a further £800,000 of interim financial support from Somerset local authorities and the Somerset Consortium of Drainage Boards, means the Authority will receive £2.7 million in its first year to deliver a much enhanced maintenance programme for river channels and flood banks along our county’s waterways.
The development and funding of the SRA has been a central part of the 20 Year Flood Action Plan which was developed at the request of the government in response to the exceptional floods last winter. Its formation is seen as a major step forward in the future co-ordination and delivery of water way maintenance and flood management, and will give local people far greater power to control and manage flood risk in Somerset. This funding will enable the newly formed Somerset Rivers Authority to make a real difference in its first year.
The creation of the Somerset Rivers Authority is the result of intensive work and close co-operation between partners, with a strong determination on everybody’s part to make this happen so that we can better protect the county from the impact of flooding. The Memorandum of Understanding agreed by Defra and the Somerset authorities was signed on Monday 8 December, where it was agreed that South Somerset District Council would pay £43,500 for the first year of funding. As part of the agreement, all parties will be conducting a review to identify a long-term, local funding solution from 2016/17.
Councillor Ric Pallister, Leader of South Somerset District Council said, “Whilst this is only a 1 year settlement, it starts us on a journey that we all want to take. Getting us to this stage so quickly has not been easy but achieving a mechanism for a long term, joined up approach that will include a wealth of local knowledge is vitally important. Co-operation between all the partners has been excellent and I am proud to have been a part of the negotiations. Our greatest fear was that we would still all be sitting around talking and taking no action when the next weather event occurs but we have now passed that point.
“We have no power to stop the rain but I am confident that we have now embarked on delivering a plan that will minimise the risks and ensure that when we do flood it will not be as deep nor last as long. Exactly who pays and how is the next step along the way and that challenge faces us in the New Year”.
The SRA Board will include representatives from each of the following partners: the five District Councils, Somerset County Council, the Environment Agency, the Parrett/Tone and Axe/Brue IDBs, the Wessex Regional Flood & Coastal Committee, Natural England.