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Somerset Levels dredgers retrieve eight cars from river

Environment Agency staff recover a car from the River Parrett Credit: Aaron Baker / SWNS.com

Workers dredging a river in the Somerset Levels have turned up eight cars over the last week, all within 100 metres of each other.

This van was among eight vehicles retrieved from the riverbed Credit: Aaron Baker/SWNS.com

Environment Agency staff working to help relieve flooding in the area noticed the cars, which could be up to 20 years old, in the drainage channel of the River Parrett.

It is so far unknown how the cars may have ended up on the riverbed, but officials stressed they would not have contributed to recent high water levels.

Workers examine another of the cars retrieved from the River Parrett Credit: Aaron Baker / SWNS.com

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.

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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

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.

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

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.

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58% of Britain's best farming land at risk from flooding

The head of National Farmers' Union said a "major rethink" was needed in how flood defence spending was allocated.

"We must stop sacrificing our productive farmland to crazy, rampant and thoughtless urbanisation," Peter Kendall said at a conference.

Around 6,500 properties were flooded in the recent months Credit: TN/AztecMedia Skycam

Mr Kendall said: "58% of our most productive land sits below the 5m contour line and it is at risk from flooding. Policy makers simply have to put higher value on it."

He said that while farmland can and should in extreme circumstances act as a temporary buffer for water to protect people's lives and homes, it shouldn't be viewed as a long-term storage facility. "It's primary job is to feed this country," he added.

Somerset farmer: Floods clean-up will be 'dreadful'

James Hall, a farmer previously featured on ITV News, says the water levels at his farm are improving but the extent of the damage is becoming more apparent.

Government announces £5,000 for each flood-hit farm

The Government has announced rural homes and businesses impacted by floods will have access to one-off grants up to £5,000 to make them more resilient.

Farming minister George Eustice said businesses which have been directly affected by flooding will be able access £10 million of government support from Friday.

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