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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.

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.

Govt: Business rate payment 'delayed' for flood victims

George Eustice said flood hit businesses would be not be expected to pay business rates within the usual time frame. Credit: Daybreak/ITV

The Government has offered help "to all businesses who have been affected by floods", the farming minister has told Daybreak.

George Eustice said the Government had delayed "the payment of business rates" and "have asked HMRC to be lenient on businesses".

Experts call for more to be done to manage flood risk

Climate experts have called for more to be done to manage Britain's flood risk after the Environment Agency warned that they cannot protect all people and properties.

Britain was severely hit by storms and floods this winter. Credit: PA Wire

Professor Jim Hall, director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford said major lessons had been learnt since the 2007 floods, but said the UK still seemed to be in a mode of "discovery by disaster".

He called for a package of measures to be adopted to manage flood risk but said we had to admit "we cannot prevent against every risk".

Professor Roger Falconer, director of the Hydro-environmental Research Centre at Cardiff University, said he hoped to see more engineers involved in work to prevent and reduce the impact of flooding.

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