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Environment Agency flattens Somerset beauty spots as part of flood management plan
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Environment Agency flattens Somerset beauty spots as part of flood management plan

Undated handout photo issued by Dominic Garnett of the River Tone in Somerset before it was stripped of trees by the Environment Agency as part of flood management measures. The semi-wild section of river running through Taunton was a favourite spot for anglers and famous for its wildlife, particularly kingfishers. Issue date: Sunday February 6, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story ENVIRONMENT RiverTone. Photo credit should read: Dominic Garnett/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

Environmental campaigners have criticised the Environment Agency’s decision, as part of flood management measures, to cut 250 m of the River Tone in Somerset.

Although the Environment Agency claimed that the removal and replanting of the trees at the Taunton beauty spot was necessary in order to reduce the risk of flooding, experts argue that this move has endangered wildlife and could lead to more floods.

Dr Nick Chappell, a University of Lancaster expert in hydrological processes associated to nature-based solutions, stated that green infrastructure can be used alongside engineering projects to mitigate flood risk.

He said that natural solutions are not magic. You have to do enough. There are co-benefits in water quality, carbon sequestration, and biodiversity. But you need to do them at the same scale as traditional infrastructure.

Local anglers were devastated when the river’s banks, which are well-known for their attraction of wildlife like Kingfishers, was bared of trees. After the trees were cut down, the banks of river are now barren.

The Environment Agency has removed trees from a former beauty spot in Taunton that was once famous for attracting Kingfishers (Photo by Dominic Garnett/PA Wire).

Dominic Garnett is an angling coach and guide who has fished the river stretch for over 20 years. He has been visiting the river since childhood.

It was a river that was semi-wild, and they have channelized it. It is heartbreaking to see the destruction of places you love. We are just destroying it all.

Woodland planting is often cited as a key flood mitigation strategy. However, Mr Garnett stated that representatives from the Environment Agency told him that the trees were being felled because they cause water to rise again.

He said that the trees were cleared just weeks before nesting season and that river plants had been dredged when certain species of fish are beginning to spawn.

Dominic Garnett at the River Tone, Somerset, before it was cleared of trees by Environment Agency flood management measures. (Photo: Dominic Garnett/PAWire)

He said that it makes them vulnerable to predators. Fish need places to hide.

According to Mr Garnett, a large lake was built as part of the original construction to placate locals upset by the loss.

He claims that the lake, which could help flood control efforts, has become silted up and is only two to three inches deep at certain places.

A spokeswoman from the Environment Agency said that essential work is being done to manage flood risk and protect properties at Bathpool and Taunton. There are also measures in place to compensate for any damage to the environment, such as new tree planting.

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