Somerset West and Taunton Council (SWT) has received a grant of £50,000 to carry out investigative works as part of a joint plan to restore Dulverton’s medieval weir and leat.
Proposals for the restoration project were submitted to Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA) in November 2020 in partnership with Dulverton Weir & Leat Conservation Trust (DWLCT) to address historical flooding issues suffered by the town.
Over the last 30 years there has been several catastrophic flooding incidents, the most recent of which was in 2012 when many homes and businesses were flooded, cutting it off from the A396 and causing thousands of pounds of damage.
The need for a programme of restorative works was agreed between SWT and DWLCT following a recent survey of the weir, attributing the flooding to a prolonged build-up of debris originating from the structural stonework and obstructing the flow of water into the leat.
The weir, which is owned by SWT, is 150 metres wide and diverts water from the River Barle into a complex leat system believed to have been built in the 14th century to provide power for up to six watermills. Water from the leat flows alongside and under properties between Town Mills and Lower Mill before re-joining the Barle on the other side of the town.
The restoration project will be delivered by the Council in two phases.
The £50,000 granted by the SRA is already being used to fund the first phase, to include: flood alleviation modelling; ecological surveying; finalising designs for repairs and improvements; obtaining necessary approvals; tendering and agreeing costs for the restoration work; and securing funding for the second phase.
Providing no obstacles are encountered which could affect the viability for the planned restoration, a second phase of repairs and improvements will commence in 2023, at which point a further application will be made to the SRA with funding sought from other potential benefactors.
Portfolio Holder for Economic Development & Asset Management, Cllr Marcus Kravis, said:
“We’re delighted to be working with the SRA and DWLCT to further our plans for Dulverton’s weir and leat and we remain hopeful that the groundwork currently being undertaken will allow for the restoration work to commence in 2022.
“The ancient weir and leat are key features of the town and it’s vital that they’re maintained for the benefit of future generations and to protect local residents and businesses from flooding which has become more frequent in recent years.”
Once the restoration works are complete, the DWLCT has agreed, in principle, to lease the weir and leat from the council and to accept responsibility for all future maintenance and costs.
Trustee of DWLCT, Philip Hull, said:
“This is tangible evidence of Somerset West and Taunton’s commitment to restore the weir & leat and we are delighted to see it”.
More information about DWLCT can be found on their website.