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Somerset residents fear their homes are being 'sacrificed' as flood water is pumped towards them

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 12, 2014

  • The area of Westonzoyland where residents fear that areas of their village may be sacrificed to protect Bridgwater as flood water is diverted away from the bigger town around the village of 1600 people.

  • Environment agency contractors load sandbags in Westonzoyland, Somerset,

  • Environment agency contractors load sandbags in Westonzoyland, Somerset,

  • The area of Westonzoyland where residents fear that areas of their village may be sacrificed to protect Bridgwater as flood water is diverted away from the bigger town around the village of 1600 people.

  • Environment agency contractors load sandbags in Westonzoyland, Somerset,

  • The area of Westonzoyland where residents fear that areas of their village may be sacrificed to protect Bridgwater as flood water is diverted away from the bigger town around the village of 1600 people.

  • Environment agency contractors load sandbags in Westonzoyland, Somerset,

  • The area of Westonzoyland where residents fear that areas of their village may be sacrificed to protect Bridgwater as flood water is diverted away from the bigger town around the village of 1600 people.

  • The area of Westonzoyland where residents fear that areas of their village may be sacrificed to protect Bridgwater as flood water is diverted away from the bigger town around the village of 1600 people.

  • Environment agency contractors load sandbags in Westonzoyland, Somerset,

  • Aerial view of the Gray's Avenue and Kings Drive area of Westonzoyland where residents fear they may be sacrificed to save Bridgwater from flooding.

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Furious villagers fear they are being "sacrificed" as flood water is pumped towards their homes in an apparent bid to prevent the deluge submerging nearby towns.

Dozens of families believe their homes could be swamped by water to prevent floods on the Somerset Levels spreading to nearby Bridgwater and Taunton.

Extra pumps and piping systems have been imported from Holland to extract water away from rivers near the town into waterways around low-lying villages including Westonzoyland.

The huge Dutch contraptions shift a staggering 7.3 million tonnes of water a day - enough to fill Wembley Stadium seven times over.

A temporary earth bank has also been built outside Bridgwater to protect some of the town's 36,000 population from water.

But many of Westonzoyland's 1,600 residents fear the increased water flow into the Sowy means they will bear the brunt when the torrent hits existing floodwater.

A spokesman for the Environment Agency today tried to calm locals and claimed that no home had been sacrificed and no one was going to be flooded.

Properties along the diversion, however, have been sandbagged. At-risk residents have received letters warning water levels would rise but the "emergency situation" meant "difficult decisions have had to be made".

Outraged Linda Bennett, 66, thinks her home is being sacrificed to stop people in the towns flooding.

Retired shop assistant Linda lives in Kings Drive, Westonzoyland, with her husband Colin, 62.

She has recieved sandbags and warning from the Environment Agency about potential flooding.

Linda, who already has one foot of water in her back garden said: "Basically they said they are going to take the water from elsewhere and pump it towards us.

"We are not very happy about it, but what can we do. We are being sacrificed for people elsewhere. It's not very fair."

In a letter to residents, the agency said increasing the volume of floodwater passing down the Sowy will help reduce river levels in the Rivers Parrett and Tone.

It added: "We have identified a small number of locations which, should levels increase significantly, could potentially pose an increased risk and we have had officers out on the ground investigation options to mitigate this risk.

"Properties at Aller Drove have already been sandbagged.

"We have also been working in Westonzoyland at assess lowest properties most at risk and what defences can be provided.

"However, if Westonzoyland was seriously threatened (we do not believe this will be the case and it would take several days for water to build even in a very worst case scenario) we would switch off this additional flow down the Sowy."

Another letter added: "All risks an benefits across the Somerset Moors and Levels have been considered in making this decision.

"This is an emergency situation, and some very difficult decision have had to be made.

"We recognise that these works/additional pumping will increase water levels in other channels.

"Working closely with our partners we are evaluating these risks and looking to provide additional temporary defences to potentially affected properties."

It is understood the agency is scheduled to start the Dutch pumps tomorrow, and pump for a number of days to initially remove water from the Sowy at Westonzoyland.

It is thought then they will open a sluice gate - Monksleaze Clyce - slowly letting water from the gorged Parrett into the Sowy.

Currently the flood waters which have poured out of the Parrett - drenching Northmoor and Moorland - are edging towards Bridgwater.

Lesley Webber, 52, said the earth bank at Huntworth, near Bridgwater, was going to stop water draining away from her home.

Agricultural contractor Lesley said: "We knew they were trying to save Bridgwater because they started building mounds at Huntworth.

"It is obvious because we are on Northmoor that is where the water would normally drain away.

"The water can't escape now they've built those mounds, it needs to run away somewhere but it can't, so it is filling us up and it doesn't go into other areas.

"They are sacrificing us to save the towns.

"I would be stupid to say that East Lyng has never flooded before, because it has, but nowhere near as many homes have ever been affected as they have this year.

"We have spent a long time building up our home, we haven't flooded in the whole 120 year history of this house."

Lesley has lived in her home in East Lyng for 20 years and has worked tirelessly to protect her house with a wall of sandbags for the last week.

But, despite her efforts water is now seeping up through her floorboards.

The agricultural contractor added: "I suppose, putting my business head on, it is one home to save hundreds and I am clever enough to appreciate that fact.

"But what annoys me is that if the Environment Agency or the Government had come here and said we know it is bad but we are going to have send the water your way to save these towns.

"But, what we will do it we are going to help you protect your houses and if you do flood we will compensate you for it.

"Instead you don't get any help or any information and we have just been fire fighting every day ourselves."

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: "We are not sacrificing any community.

"There is a plan in place to remove more water from the Tone and Parrett but no-one is going to be flooded by the actions we are undertaking.

"The whole concept is to reduce flood risk and not increase the risk for anyone."

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