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Politicians clash over Somerset flood action
5:00pm Thursday 12th September 2013 in News
A FIERCE war of words has broken out after bosses at Somerset County Council pledged £300,000 to help dredge two of the county’s main rivers.
The River Parrett, which runs through Bridgwater, and the River Tone, which runs through Taunton, are both expected to be treated next year.
Dredging involves using heavy-duty machinery to clear deposits at the bottom of rivers in a bid to reduce the threat of flooding.
Vast areas of the Somerset Levels were left under water following heavy rainfall last year and many fear a repeat this winter.
Following last week’s announcement, members of the opposition Liberal Democrat group at the county council have accused the ruling Conservatives of not acting quickly enough.
LibDem group leader Cllr Sam Crabb said: “In March there was a very successful Flood Summit and now all are looking to the county council to be the lead flood authority and take action to reduce flood risk but very little appears to be happening.”
Mr Crabb said 14 action points had been identified at the summit earlier this year and claimed nine should be completed by the end of this month.
He said: “There needs to be an action plan immediately and the county council urgently should implement the 14 key areas.
“We are lucky to have had a long dry spell but we do not want to see a repeat of the floods covering the Somerset Levels for months and months.”
However, Conservative cabinet member Cllr David Hall said: “This money will be focused on delivering a safer environment. We fully back the recommendations from the summit and are working to ensure Somerset remains a safe place to live and remain open for business regardless of the weather conditions.”
Bridgwater MP Ian Liddell-Grainger welcomed the £300,000 boost, but said it would only go a small way towards the £4million needed to properly dredge the Parrett and Tone.
He also hit out at the amount of money being spent on creating new wetlands for wildlife on the Steart Peninsula near Bridgwater – which he said would protect nobody from flooding.
He said: “I had a meeting with Richard Benyon, the Environment Minister, this month and I told him that if the Environment Agency can find £31million for Steart, they can find £4million to protect people’s homes.”
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