Relief for residents as dredging of Somerset Levels begins

The Environment Agency has begun dredging the Somerset Levels at the River Parrett. The government agency came under fire during the floods which crippled the south west county, leaving 6,500 homes and businesses affected.

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Dredging begins across flooded Somerset

The UN biggest study into the impact of climate change released today warned severe flooding will be more frequent as the effects of climate change are felt across the globe.

Read: Global experts warn global warming damage 'severe, pervasive and irreversible'

Governments have been urged to prepare for the risks of climate change such as higher sea levels, and adapt to the changing weather patterns it may bring.

In Somerset today residents celebrated as dredging started in the River Parret, as part of the Environment Agency's 'Flood Action Plan'. Measures such as dredging could become more common, as Dan Rivers reports.

Read: Relief for Somerset Levels residents as dreding begins

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Dredging begins in flooded areas of Somerset

Dredging is underway on the the flood-hit Somerset Moors and Levels this morning.

Workers from Land & Water dredging the River Parrett Credit: ITV News West Country

Work is beginning on a 200-yard stretch on the River Parrett, before excavators start on a five-mile stretch of river near Burrowbridge.

The work is on a key part of the river which has been specially identified for dredging and where "significant amounts" of silt have built up, the Environment Agency has said.

The River Parrett has built up 'significant amounts' of silt Credit: ITV News West Country

Local campaigners and residents have blamed the extent of the crisis on a lack of dredging on the River Tone and River Parrett.

Gav Sadler, of Flooding on the Levels Action Group (Flag), said the dredging was "a very encouraging sight, but is just the beginning."

Local campaigners have criticised a lack of dredging of rivers in Somerset Credit: ITV News West Country

"We would like to see all the rivers dredged," he went on. "Another issue is we don't know the quality of the dredging they are going to do.

"We would like to see a little bit of transparency from the Environment Agency," he added. "This affects our lives, we want to make sure they do a proper job."

Land & Water removing silt from the River Parrett today Credit: ITV News West Country

Environment Agency: Dredging an 'important milestone'

The start of dredging the Somerset Levels is "an important milestone" in the Government's attempts to repair the country after December and January's floods.

Dr Paul Leinster, Chief Executive at the Environment Agency, said:

Today is an important milestone in the work to reduce the risk of flooding to people, property and land in Somerset and we welcome the additional money from Government that has allowed us to undertake this further dredging.

– Dr Paul Leinster

Read: Environment Agency begins dredging Somerset Levels

Environment Agency begins dredging Somerset Levels

The Environment Agency will begin dredging river beds in Somerset today as part of wider Government plans to clear up flood hit parts of the country.

Watch: Tonight: After the Floods

Somerset levels
Water surrounds flooded properties on the Somerset Levels near Bridgwater in February this year. Credit: PA

Read: £20m flooding protection plan for Somerset Levels

Initial work on a 200-metre stretch of the River Parrett will get underway at 9am, ahead of dredging of an eight kilometre stretch of river near where the Tone and Parrett meet at Burrowbridge.

Dredging - where silt and bottom sediment is removed from the riverbed - is part of the Government's £100m 20 Year Flood Action Plan.

The Environment Agency came under huge criticism for failing to dredge the rivers that drain the floodwaters after the south of England was battered by storms.

Flooding throughout December and January of this year is thought to have affected 6,500 homes and businesses as well as leaving some villages completely cut off from the outside world.

Read: Statistics watchdog: 'Flood defence spending cut by £247m'