Somerset Wildlife Trust today welcomes the Somerset Levels and Moors Flood Action Plan as a step in the right direction.
Somerset County Council and DEFRA were tasked by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Owen Patterson, in January, to create a flood action plan in six weeks that would guide water and land management on the Somerset Levels for the next 20 years. Somerset Wildlife Trust was one of the stakeholders consulted during the writing of the plan.
Simon Nash, Somerset Wildlife Trust Chief Executive said : “Six weeks is not much time to produce a 20 year plan, but Somerset’s leaders and the Levels community has pulled out all the stops to help people whose lives have been devastated by the flooding.
“The question now is can this plan result in the scale of change necessary to bring about a brighter future for the Levels?
“The Plan doesn’t state how much future flood risk can be reduced by proposed actions and which are the most cost-effective options. This is understandable, given the six week deadline, but more work is needed to give the Levels community the confidence that flood risk will reduce and money will be invested sensibly.
“The type of extreme weather that we have recently experienced is in line with climate change predictions, which also warn that such events will become more frequent. The actions in the plan can reduce flood risk, but by how much? Many of the more difficult actions are either unfunded, pushed far into the future or labelled as ‘too difficult’.
“Business as usual isn’t an option. We need to tackle these difficult issues sooner rather than later. To achieve real change and make progress towards a long term vision we need leadership that transcends short term political and funding cycles.
“The people of the Levels &Moors need the confidence that actions in the Plan can make a real difference to flood risk and that the right options are prioritised and decisions are evidence based. “
You can read an Executive Summary or the full 20 year Action Plan here:
As part of the Somerset Levels and Moors Task Force, alongside a range of other stakeholders including the NFU and Somerset County Council, Somerset Wildlife Trust has agreed a Vision of what the Somerset Levels and Moors might look like in 2030. It is intended to guide water and land management policies over the years ahead and the Trust hopes that the 20 year plan can help progress towards this: http://somersetnewsroom.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/task-force-vision.pdf
The Vision is underpinned by a strong recognition of the Levels and Moors’ distinctive character; a place that trades on its natural environment, a jewel in Somerset’s crown, and a place that supports a highly valuable wetland of international conservation importance.
Somerset Wildlife Trust believes that the unique nature of the Levels is a great asset to Somerset and that this nature can be part of the flood management solution. The Trust welcomes actions in the plan to retain more water in soils in the upper catchment and to create new habitats that can store water. As a local landowner managing 350 hectares in the Levels and Moors Somerset Wildlife Trust will continue to work with stakeholders to find solutions on the scale needed for long term resilience.
Effects of flooding on wildlife
Somerset Wildlife has been receiving enquiries about how the prolonged flooding is affecting wildlife. Whilst it is still too early to say conclusively what the effects will be we've put together this summary which outlines some of the issues and challenges for some species on the Levels & Moors: Effects on wetland wildlife.
Photo: Catcott afternoon in February ©Christopher Hancock