Somerset Levels 'negligence' accusation over flooding

Bridgwater MP, Ian Liddell-Grainger Mr Liddell-Grainger wants pinch points along the Rivers Tone and Parrett to be dredged

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The Bridgwater MP has accused the Environment Agency of "negligence" for failing to do more to prevent flooding on the Somerset Levels.

Ian Liddell-Grainger said catastrophic flooding left businesses waterlogged three times last year and has left farmland under water for months.

The Conservative MP called on the agency to pay for dredging along the Tone and Parrett rivers.

The Floods Minister Richard Benyon said the agency was looking at options.

"For 20 years there has been no dredging of the River Tone or the Parrett and silt has piled up upon silt," said Mr Liddell-Grainger.

'Do something'

"In real terms almost half the capacity of the River Tone to carry flood water through Taunton down to Bridgwater has been lost.

"The problem can be solved even though it has been ignored - the name of the game at this stage is negligence."

The Floods Minister said he was not opposed to the idea in principle.

"I think that de-silting these rivers may well make a difference," said Mr Benyon.

"It's just a question of whether we can make that stack up against all the other responsibilities that we and the agency have right around the country."

Speaking from the National Farmers' Union conference in Birmingham, regional spokesman Ian Johnson said it was time to match rhetoric with action.

"We've got farmers who've been under water for 12 months, they've got no feed, they're having to sell their animals so we have to do something," said Mr Johnson

"We've got the boss of Tesco here telling us he is prepared to take British produce so what is the point of having very productive good land underwater?"

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