IWA West Country Branch Launches Campaign to Improve Use of the Proposed Tidal Surge Barrier on the River Parrett at Bridgwater

IWA West Country Branch Launches Campaign to Improve Use of the Proposed Tidal Surge Barrier on the River Parrett at Bridgwater

26 February 2015

IWA West Country Branch is campaigning to make the best use of the proposed Tidal Surge Barrier which is expected to be built on the River Parrett at Bridgwater in Somerset.

Following the severe flooding that occurred last winter on the Somerset Levels and Moors proposals are now being made to bring forward by several years the construction of a barrier on the River Parrett, principally for tidal flood defence purposes.  An earlier report, completed in 2009, envisaged that a barrier would need to be built at some point between 2030 and 2050 in order to protect Bridgwater and its environs from rising sea levels.

The updated report issued by Sedgemoor District Council and the Environment Agency in late 2014 suggests that the barrier could now be built within the next 10 years.  IWA fully supports the construction of a barrier and the accelerated timeframe.  However, the proposals currently envisage that the barrier will only be brought into use when it is necessary to prevent a spring or high tide from surging upstream on the river.  IWA believes that the proposed Tidal Surge Barrier could be used to greater effect and benefit to the community if it is operated differently and incorporates a lock.

IWA has suggested that construction of the Tidal Surge Barrier should be used to:

  • Facilitate sea-going craft travelling through to Bridgwater and further inland
  • Impound some water on the River Parrett during the boating season, thus enabling boating to take place in a relatively safe environment for approximately 20 miles upstream of the barrier, including to Langport and Muchelney
  • Facilitate the reopening of the link from the River Parrett to the Historic Bridgwater Docks and hence to the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal.

The effect of this would be to:

  • Make Bridgwater and its waterways a destination of choice for sea-going craft
  • Enhance the use of the existing waterway corridors for leisure and sporting activities
  • Enhance the tourist potential of Bridgwater and the Somerset Levels
  • Open up the market for short boating holidays, including the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal which runs for some 15 miles through the countryside to Taunton, the County Town of Somerset.

The enhanced attractiveness of the River Parrett would bring:

  • Greater community involvement and benefits
  • Increased leisure and sporting use of the waterway, for example:
    • Running, walking and cycling
    • Fishing and bird watching
    • Canoeing, kayaking and boating
  • More tourism including the potential for trip boats and other boating activities.

Gren Messham, IWA Navigation committee Chairman said “After last year’s floods, major investment is needed to avoid future tidal floods damaging Bridgwater and surrounding areas.  With little additional work Bridgwater’s role as a historic meeting of sea and inland waterways can be reinstated to everyone’s benefit – both economic and recreational.

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