Somerset County Council leader John Osman was elected chairman of the Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA) Board at its first meeting yesterday (Friday 27 February).
Cllr Osman, who has been Chair of the Flood Action Plan Leaders Implementation Group, was elected by fellow board members and Tony Bradford, Vice Chair of the Parrett Internal Drainage Board and chair of the South West Association of Drainage Authorities (SWADA), was elected to be the Vice Chair.
Members of the public, including represent from FLAG, attended the meeting which also saw the board formally adopt the new SRA constitution.
The SRA will help shape flood management in the County. It will help identify work and fund and deliver a higher standard of flood protection in Somerset. It will also ensure the large number of separate flood risk management authorities in the county work together through a combined programme. The work of the Somerset Levels and Moors Flood Action Plan will carry on as part of the SRA.
“This is an exciting new era and potentially a national flagship,” said Cllr Osman.
“This authority brings together varied organisations in a new era of cooperation and understanding. We will assist and advise each other and cut out duplication.
“I will work tirelessly in this role to build coordination between the partners to undertake flood risk management activities and build the flood resilience of communities of all Somerset’s districts.
“Much like today’s meeting, all future board meetings will be open to the greater public and alongside community forums. This will make sure that there is lines of communication with the public are always open.”
The meeting discussed and confirmed the programme of work for the coming year which includes developing a long-term funding mechanism, development of a common works programme (which joins up existing work more efficiently) and delivery of enhanced maintenance.
Enhanced maintenance includes new dredging, maintaining newly dredged sections, extra vegetation cutting and de-silting and addressing localised flooding issues in the wider catchment. There will also be work to ensure that landowners fulfil their own maintenance responsibilities. This is the additional work that would not be funded nationally but is required locally.
It also agreed allocation of the SRA’s first year budget of £2.7m – £2.25m on the enhanced maintenance programme and £450k on developing the SRA, including establishing sustainable funding, developing common works programme, managing the Flood Action Plan, and public engagement.
Present were board members from the Axe Brue Internal Drainage Board, the Parrett Internal Drainage Board, Natural England, Environment Agency, Wessex RFCC, and the Sedgemoor District Council, Somerset County Council, South Somerset District Council, Mendip District Council, West Somerset Council and Taunton Deane Borough Council.
Defra is providing £1.9 million funding for the SRA’s first year, with partners Somerset County Council providing £600,000, and between them the Sedgemoor District Council, Taunton Deane Borough Council, South Somerset District Council, Mendip District Council, West Somerset District Council and Somerset Consortium of Drainage Boards are providing £200,000.
Visit www.somersetriversauthority.org.uk to learn more about the SRA and its planned work.