Somerset residents hit by recent floods must wait until Christmas for crucial reports

By Daniel Mumby - Local Democracy Reporter

1st Apr 2024 | Local News

Flooding on Combeland Road in Minehead. CREDIT: Somerset Council.
Flooding on Combeland Road in Minehead. CREDIT: Somerset Council.

Somerset communities hit by flooding over the last 12 months will have to wait until at least Christmas for crucial reports, which will recommend steps to prevent a repeat of these events.

Several parts of Somerset suffered from severe localised flooding between May 2023 and January 2024, with nearly 300 residential and commercial properties being affected.

Whenever more than ten properties have been affected by severe localised flooding, Somerset Council can commission a report (known as a Section 19 report) to investigate the causes of the event and put forward ideas of how to prevent similar disruption in the years ahead.

But due to a lack of personnel, the first report into each of the floods is not expected until Christmas – and some communities may be waiting longer than that for reassurance.

An update on the lack of progress was published before the council's climate and place scrutiny committee met in Bridgwater on March 20.

Council officers (including a dedicated flood investigation officer, who was appointed in November 2023) are currently dealing with a backlog of several major flooding investigations.

The first of these concerns the flooding of May 9 and 10, 2023, where multiple towns and villages within the River Cam catchment in the east of Somerset were hit with flooding following "intense localised thunder and hailstorms", with high levels of surface water run-off being reported.

The area experienced 130mm of rainfall in just 90 minutes, with 177 properties being subjected to internal flooding as a result of this event – including dozens along the A303 corridor in Queen Camel, Sparkford and West Camel.

A further 33 properties – forming the second Section 19 report – were flooded on the same day in Milverton, within the River Tone catchment area.

The third investigation concerns the "significant storm" on September 17, 2023 where dozens of properties were damaged as a result of water flooding off the Blackdown Hills and out of the Exmoor National Park.

A total of 67 households reported property damage, centring around Carhampton, Minehead, Wellington and Withycombe, with residents also reporting the local roads were "unusable".

Two further investigations are also under way into more recent flooding – with 14 properties in Martock being flooded on December 4, 2023 and at least 50 others suffering in the wake of Storm Henk on January 4, 2024, with reports of flooding in Bruton, Croscombe, Knole, Nunney and Shepton Mallet.

Anna Meares, the council's flood investigation officer, said in her written report: "Flooding is a sensitive topic due to loss of property and livelihood. Recurring flooding leaves residents anxious of repeat events.

"Reports need to be published so lessons can be learned, mitigations put in place, repeat events avoided and flood responses improved.

"Ordinarily, investigations would be started and completed within 12 months of a flood event. In this instance, our flood and coastal team were unable to resource this function and temporary staffing has had to be sought, leading to delays."

The backlog of Section 19 reports is so significant that the council only recently published its final report into the floods which hit the Shepton Mallet area in October 2020.

The Section 19 reports into the floods of May 2023 and September 2023 are currently predicted to be published before Christmas.

The reports into the floods of December 2023 and January 2024 will not be completed and published until the early-summer of 2025.

     

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