Somerset floods are worst for years

4 January 2000

Somerset floods are ‘worst for years’

By FWi staff

HUNDREDS of acres of Somerset farmland is likely to remain submerged for weeks after what local residents claim is the worst flooding for years.

Millions of gallons of water are being pumped every hour from farmland and wet meadows on the Somerset Levels north-east of Taunton.

The flooding was caused by heavy rainfall over the festive season and has left some fields submerged under more than three metres of water.

But farmers claim more should have been done by the Environment Agency to prevent the flooding, which engulfed hundreds of acres of low-lying land.

An emergency meeting to discuss the situation will be held with Environment Agency officials at Stoke St Gregory, near Taunton, on Wednesday (5 January).

Richard Symonds of the Environment Agency acknowledged the situation was so bad that it would impossible to farm much of the land for some time.

“It will take weeks for parts of the Somerset Levels to drain to their usual state,” he said.

However, the overall picture has been a positive one, with most banks and defence schemes performing well, he added.

“We are now working at full speed on emergency repairs so that Somersets historic flood defences can cope with any further pressure.”

But Stuart Gothard, who farms at Stoke St Gregory, said too little money had been spent to ease the flooding by maintaining local riverbanks.

“Neglect or shortage of money has caused rivers to silt up in some places by up to one-third,” he said.

Over the past few days, the agency craned in tonnes of sandbags to ensure a medieval wall could withstand the threat of more rain.

The ancient floodbank runs between the village of East Lyng and the River Tone and protects farmland around the A361 road.

Pumping stations in the area are now working as soon as river levels drop enough to allow them to begin removing the water.

The agency said mobile pumps have been set up across the worst-hit areas to further help relieve people and land affected by the floods.

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