Somerset

Somerset Levels flooding: Villagers 'devastated' and businesses 'killed off'

Mans walks off boat in Somerset Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Some areas have been cut off by flood water for almost a month

Villages on the Somerset Levels have faced weeks of flooding with no respite from the conditions in sight.

Muchelney has been cut off because of flooded roads for almost a month.

As a result, an hourly boat is the only means by which residents can get out of the village to do day-to-day tasks like going to the shops or visiting the doctor.

Some of those affected spoke about what they are facing and whether they feel the situation could have been avoided.

'Tardy response' to flooding

Ken Jackson owns Muchelney Cattery, which lies in one of the worst affected areas. He said promises in 2012 were not followed up.

"Last year, we had an exact replica of what's happening now," he said.

"They had flood forums [and] meetings but the Environment Agency and government agencies are mainly interested in making people responsible for themselves, rather than what the root causes are.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Local campaigners have called for the rivers to be dredged

"And once the event actually happened, they were pretty tardy in responding."

He added that his business was being "killed off" by the flooding, with people cancelling bookings and owners unable to pick up animals.

"We're small fry, but all of these pockets of employment and investment are part of the hidden story," he said.

"It's devastating - and it just gets more and more obvious that we can't continue.

"We haven't done any new business since the New Year."

Insurance 'expected to triple'

Ron Smith works for a homeless charity and lives in the village of Aller, which neighbours Muchelney.

He said his insurance went up five-fold to £5,000 after flooding in 2012 and he now expects that amount to triple.

"We would like to sell the property, but how can we? You can't put a price on that," he said.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Ron Smith said Owen Paterson should have visited Muchelney

"It's pure anger, it should never have happened."

"We were flooded on Christmas Day - we gave up on 3rd January and only went back in on Saturday," he added.

"We were staying in holiday accommodation in a nearby village.

"But it's very difficult - it came in gradually, inch by inch, so we had plenty of time to take certain actions. The whole ground floor was flooded.

"The emotional side - it's devastating, it's heartbreaking to lose your home and have to move and to see your things floating past."

Mr Smith said he tried to go and see Environment Secretary Owen Paterson who visited the flood-hit area on Monday.

"I fought my way as far as I could but couldn't reach it by car because of the flooding - [Mr Patterson's entourage] all had big Range Rovers and they could just plough through it.

"They should have to come to Muchelney - not one senior person has come to talk to the residents and knocked on their doors and said how are you doing?"

'Business has stopped'

John Leach, who owns a pottery business in Muchelney, said he was both "sad" and "mad" at the current situation.

"It's stopped business, we are actually marooned and we had to close down on the 5th or 6th January - it's a nightmare," he said.

"Last year was not so bad - we lived upstairs and had our wellies on the top step. Our Aga just about kept going and we carried our food upstairs.

"I'm staying with my son and daughter-in-law in Kingsbury-Stembridge - I was taken out by tractor."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Boats have had to be used to rescue residents from the flooding

He said the flooding was 2.5ins (6cm) higher than 2012, which was "devastating".

"We were told by the Environment Agency that November 2012 was a once-in-100-years flood but here we are again," he said.

"It's so depressing, we love our work and it's so frustrating.

"But we want to fight this and make sure the agency do something about this."

He added he was worried this was a "pattern for the future".

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