Flooded Somerset will not be given extra cash, says council

House in Thorney, Somerset Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The flooding has persisted in Somerset for almost a month

No extra money will be given to Somerset to ease flooding problems, it has been announced.

The news comes after the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson visited the area to view the extent of the damage.

The county council said it was "disappointed" about the funding but "hopeful" of a government 20-year plan to protect the Levels and moors.

The Environment Agency has also been criticised over its response to the flooding in the area.

'Hugely disappointed'

Farmers in the county say the agency's' inertia has exacerbated the flooding.

Somerset County Council leader John Osman said: "Although I am hugely disappointed that central government have not announced any additional funding we will continue to keep the pressure on to secure a fair deal for Somerset's residents.

"We are happy to work with government and other agencies to draw up a long-term plan to protect our communities against flooding.

"But I want to be clear that this is not the end of our fight to lobby government to support our flood-hit communities."

He added possible projects mentioned by Owen Paterson "included a barrage for Bridgwater and dredging rivers".

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson was greeted by angry scenes when he arrived in Somerset earlier to meet farmers and council leaders. He had been expected in the county on Sunday.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A boat service has been ferrying residents from flooded areas

Bridgwater MP Ian Liddell-Grainger believes the Environment Agency needs to start dredging rivers in the county, large areas of which remain under water.

He said: "I think the most important thing is to stop the Environment Agency from being wimps."

Talking about the response so far to the floods in Somerset, the Conservative MP added: "Let's get a bit of backbone into the Environment Agency.

"We want them to dredge the Tone and the Parrett, to allow the internal drainage board to do their jobs on the ditches, and to stop waffling around.

"They have got to stop worrying about the water voles, stop worrying about the birds - just do the job."

Large areas of the South West remain under water, with about 150 flood alerts in place across every region in England.

An Environment Agency spokesman said: "We're doing everything we can to pump water off the Somerset Levels as quickly as river and tide levels allow.

"We have brought in extra manpower and pumping equipment from around the country and have 65 pumps working around the clock.

"This is the single largest pumping operation ever undertaken in Somerset."

He added the agency had spent £45m nationally in the past financial year on "improving rivers, including dredging and weed clearance".

He said they had "explored the feasibility of dredging with our partners on the Somerset Levels [but] dredging is often not the best long term or economic solution".

"Increased dredging of rivers on the Somerset Levels would not have prevented the recent widespread flooding," he said.

On Friday, county and district councils declared "major incidents" because of the continuing flood situation.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The flood water has left some cars submerged

Somerset County Council said its priority was to keep people safe.

A major incident is declared where there is a situation which could not be dealt with easily by the local council and could threaten lives, disrupt the community or damage property.

The village of Muchelney, home to several hundred people, has been cut off by flood water for almost a month. Other villages such as Thorney have also been affected.

A rescue boat has been ferrying people and supplies along one of the flooded roads.

A six-wheel drive fire engine was also sent to Muchelney at the weekend to help deal with any emergencies there.

The Met Office said temperatures were expected to plummet later and warned the UK to prepare for icy, frozen surfaces - with some communities in England being warned to expect further flooding.

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