Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Somerset homes at risk from freak Bristol Channel flooding

Graham Quarrier in This is Somerset (UK): Thousands of homes could be left under water if a freak combination of high tides and severe rainfall coincide, a new report has claimed. A high tide in the Bristol Channel, combined with heavy rainfall and a big swell coming down the River Avon, could see low-lying areas of Bristol and the surrounding area flooded, the Environment Agency has said.

It also claims the Government is keen on a scheme under which businesses in the Avonmouth area of Bristol would pay extra for new flood defences in the area. The suggestions have come to light following a nine-week consultation on a flood risk management plan for the Severn Estuary, which covers the Bristol Channel coast from Wales to West Somerset.

The Daily Press has previously reported on controversial plans to let an area near Steart village flood rather than replacing flood defences. But a similar project is also being earmarked near the village of Kingston Seymour, in North Somerset.

The risk of flooding along the estuary from Sharpness, near Berkeley, to Hinkley Point in Somerset, taking in the coastal areas of South Gloucestershire, Bristol and North Somerset, varies from a one in 1,000 chance in any year to a one in 10 level.

"Our aim over the next century is to concentrate on protecting the areas of highest population along the coast," said project manager Graham Quarrier, who is based in Bridgwater. "That's going to mean spending hundreds of millions of pounds over the next 100 years on maintaining existing and building new sea defences."

More than £60 million has been spent over the past 25 years improving the region's coastal defences, to protect an estimated 37,000 at-risk homes from a recurrence of the 1981 storm, which left thousands of acres under water….

Somerset Levels in 2009: Lower Burrow and flooding on West Moor View from the top of Burrow Hill Looking north. The houses in the foreground are at Lower Burrow at the foot of the hill. The flooded fields are on West Moor and the two lines of light coloured reeds mark the line of the main drain of the moor. Shot by Nigel Mykura, Wikimedia Commons via Geograph UK, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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