THE Bishop of Taunton, the Rt Rev Peter Maurice, has written to all bishops in the House of Lords, calling for their support in urging the Government to take action to help people affected by the floods on the Somerset Levels.
Here is his letter.
To all bishops in the House of Lords.
On the afternoon of Sunday, January 19, the Archdeacon of Wells and I spent three hours in Muchelney and the surrounding villages on the Somerset Levels.
You will know from news reports how badly affected they have been by flooding.
We visited couples in flooded out homes who have lived in the village for over 30 years and have never seen conditions so bad.
The stories are heartbreaking – with farms and other businesses unable to operate normally, and homes made unbearable by the flooding of domestic sewage systems (cess-pits and septic tanks).
This situation began before Christmas, and nothing has changed since the New Year - more rain has made the situation much worse.
People are dependent on an emergency boat or tractor to get them to the mainland.
The local councils have heeded the villagers request that this be deemed a major incident.
Emergency services are now providing specialist vehicles to gain access in the event of an emergency of any kind.
I think it is now necessary for your influence in the Lords to be brought to bear in questions to the government about what they propose to do.
Even with the pumps now being used by the Environment Agency, the water is likely to remain for months in places.
The main A372 road across the county has been closed for weeks.
The people with local knowledge are quite clear that there has been no dredging of the main rivers (the Parrett and Tone) for some years, and that this must be done to prevent repetition of this flooding. Businesses will need help to recover.
Householders will also need support to physically restore their homes.
Archdeacon Nicola and I are very proud that the local church in Muchelney has been used as a community resource during this emergency – with foodstuffs, newspapers and hot coffee available.
The clergy have been using the boat system to gain access and conduct worship as well as offer pastoral care.
But action is needed now to help people, and the recovery phase must be properly planned and founded by Government if this awful scene is not to be repeated.
I would be grateful for your support in this increasingly urgent matter.
Pictured: Revd David Gent (back), Priest in Charge Martock with Ash; The Ven Nicola Sullivan, Archdeacon of Wells; Rt Revd Peter Maurice, Bishop of Taunton