Glastonbury Festival founder Michael Eavis helps launch "fighting fund" to save Somerset Levels from flooding
Glastonbury Festival founder Michael Eavis is helping lead the fight to save the Somerset Levels from flooding.
A fund to save the levels from flooding was launched today by a group led by Mr Eavis and the Royal Bath and West of England Society.
Mr Eavis, who farms on the levels, described current maintenance of the area as, “an absolute shambles” which has seen large swathes of previously productive farmland reduced to a swamp.
The levels cover 170,000 acres of land (15 per cent of the county) and are managed by more than 1,000 farmers. The area was severely affected by the 2011/12 floods with the damage compounded by a lack of maintenance of flood defences and dredging of rivers, which are now taking only 60 per cent of the water they should be able to manage.
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Mr Eavis said: ““They used to have half a dozen drag lines that would be going throughout the winter. It should be simple to introduce a system that works, but it’s all been an absolute shambles.
“Unfortunately the maintenance of the levels has been an example of central government interference, when it should have been left to the people who know what they are doing.
“One of the benefits of dredging is that you build up the banks at the same time so it’s a double whammy effect.”
The Royal Bath and West of England Society launched the fund to raise £3 million to £4 million to dredge some of the key rivers on the levels. The society sees its role as bringing together the responsible parties, including landowners to ensure that this work is done and the levels are saved.
Edwin White, chairman of the society’s Agricultural Policy Group, who launched the fund with Mr Eavis, said: “Somerset is a very important food producing county and 15 per cent of it is now not fit for purpose. This situation has been allowed to develop over the last ten or 15 years, and now it’s reached a head with the heavy rains of 2011 and 2012. A wet winter this year will add to the destruction.”
Mr White has written to Prime Minister David Cameron asking for funding of £1 million to match the £300,000 from the Environment Agency, £300,000 from Somerset County Council and £400,000 already donated by the Government.
Mr White said: “Many of the farms and businesses in and around this area have either ceased to exist or suffered serious hardship due to flooding over a 12 month period, the effects of which included the complete closure of some ‘A’ roads for a ten week period.
“Money from this fund will not be going to individuals, but will be used to tackle the flooding issue as a whole. We need to get to the source of the problem and that is done by dredging the rivers.”