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Somerset is Open for Business!

Tessa in Somerset

For many years, the majority of holidaymakers’ only experience of Somerset was through a car window as they hurtled down the M5 on their way to our more famous neighbours – Devon and Cornwall.

In recent years, however, this has changed. Thanks to the tireless work of the County’s tourism businesses we all know about Somerset’s friendly locals, our iconic landscape, rich history, vast array of products and events including Cheddar Cheese, Scrumpy Cider, Ales, Strawberries, the Wurzels, Glastonbury Festival, and much more – too many to mention!

Somerset has firmly established itself as a popular destination for domestic and international tourists.

But the scenes that have hit TV screens week after week since just before Christmas have shown catastrophic levels of flooding after the wettest winter for a couple of hundred years.

Minister after Minister has donned welly boots and visited Somerset, and as the floodwaters have risen, they’ve been pledging, with ever-increasing urgency, that they will bring the help, the people and the money that is needed to clear up the mess.

 

Grim as it is for those who are directly affected by the flooding – and it must be very depressing for those clearing up again and again, because this is the third time in six years some homes and businesses have been underwater – the extraordinary truth is that only two per cent of the County is submerged.

Not one of our major visitor attractions and holiday destinations has been affected and the teams which run them and the many warm, dry and welcoming places to stay are ready and waiting for a busy holiday season.

The teams involved in making sure that your holiday in Somerset is fun, interesting and one to remember is 35,000 strong and very capable. Many people are unaware that we have the second largest number of holiday caravans on the Somerset coast at Brean and Burnham-on-Sea.

So, don’t be put off by the news on the TV!

Come and see us – bring your bucket and spade as we’ve lots of sand, great seaside resorts and lovely piers.

Bring your boots for long walks in beautiful countryside, along the Mendip Hills, up Glastonbury Tor and down the caves in Wookey Hole and Cheddar.

Bring your bikes to discover the moors (flat land with miles and miles of lanes) criss-crossing the land of mysterious legends woven around King Alfred and King Arthur.

Bring your camera and snap away – we’ve dozens of historic buildings and England’s smallest city,

Bring your friends and family – we promise they won’t be bored and they definitely won’t be hungry!

Somerset was named by the Celts and the Saxons as ‘The Land of the Summer People’

Come and see us soon – Somerset is #OpenforBusiness!

Tessa Munt

February 27 2014


 

Tessa Munt MP joins Lions Club to collect money for Flood victims

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 Tessa with Local Lions. From left: Treasurer of Glastonbury & Street Lions Club, David Atkins, Sheila Perrett, Tessa and Ian Kindon (Clarks Village).

 
Local MP and Lions Club Member, Tessa joined fellow members at Clarks Village on Sunday, to collect money for those who have been affected by the floods.

Tessa said:

“I was pleased to be able to help with the collection on Sunday. Parts of our county have been submerged for nine weeks now, it’s hard to imagine how exhausting that must be for those worst affected. For my part I will continue to push for action in Parliament and elsewhere.

We are blessed in Somerset with a wealth of well organised and committed local groups like the Lions who play an invaluable role locally, fundraising sums of money and channelling this to those that most need the help.”

Glastonbury and Street Lions Club Treasurer David Atkins said:

“I’d like to thank Tessa for pitching in on Sunday. The Lions in the South West have received a grant for £10,000 from our National association and our total fund will be approaching £20k after this weekend.  We will be working with Somerset Community Foundation to ensure that this money goes to individual households on the Levels.

Today we collected £1094 making a total of £2318 over the two days.  This means that through various ways Glastonbury and Street Lions and Friends including City of Wells and Crewkerne Lions Clubs have raised a few pounds short of £5k to date in the last ten days and more is planned.

Tessa Munt


18th February 2014


 Somerset Floods: Why now is the time to ask for money from Europe 

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Tessa and Flooding Minister on Somerset Levels last year

At the time of writing, it’s nine weeks since the first flooding hit Somerset.

For many, homes and businesses have been submerged under floodwater since the first storms before Christmas.  For some, this has been a distressing repeat of last year’s events. The misery is indescribable and the resultant chaos impacting on everyday life takes a huge emotional toll.

Add to that the inevitable financial distress when you can’t work, or can’t get to work and it is hard to see how and when life will ever return to normal.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks trying to persuade Government Ministers to demand the Treasury gets a move on, does the right thing and puts in a claim to the equivalent of our insurance company, the European Union.

The Treasury could, and should, stop faffing around and apply for a grant from the regional disaster fund, part of the European Union Solidarity Fund.

The Solidarity Fund was created after severe flooding in Central Europe in 2002, and is designed to respond with grants to Member States after major natural disasters or drought.

In the last few years, regional disaster funding has been used to help:

 

* In Austria in 2005, with £11m for road, rail, telecom, water course, river bed repairs and cleaning up debris

* the UK in 2007 receiving £31 million for the clear-up after flooding in Gloucestershire

* Italy in 2009, receiving £43m following the earthquake in the Province of L’Aquila, then a further £301m to rebuild homes.

There’s a pot of money sitting in Brussels as we speak.  The Commissioner, Johannes Hahn, says the money can be channelled to help the communities in Somerset worst affected by this disaster.  He’s ready and waiting for an application for Somerset.

The Government can define the size of the area which needs help, there’s no minimum limit, and the criteria for a bid are that

* serious and lasting damage has occurred

* there have been repercussions for economic stability and living conditions in the region and

* 50% of people living there are affected

 

Somerset meets all the criteria.

But the application form is still sitting on George Osborne’s desk, awaiting his signature.   And the clock is ticking.  There’s one condition on regional disaster grants – the application must be submitted within ten weeks from the first day of the disaster.

I don’t know how much more of a disaster George Osborne thinks the flooding in Somerset can become – but this help is available for precisely this sort of catastrophe.

We taxpayers pay into Europe, and it’s our turn to ask for some help.  That’s what we pay for, it’s only fair and it’s what Somerset’s residents and businesses deserve.

So there’s no time to waste, George!  Don’t leave the application forms any longer, George, or you’ll miss the deadline which expires in just a fortnight’s time!

Tessa Munt


17th February 2014


   Somerset Flooding: Tessa calls on the Government to apply for European Disaster Funding without delay  

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 Tessa surveyed the scenes from Burrow Mump on Sunday

Local MP Tessa Munt has called on the Government to apply for a grant from the regional disaster fund, part of the European Union Solidarity Fund, without further delay.

The Solidarity Fund was created after severe flooding in Central Europe in 2002, and is designed to respond with grants to Member States after major natural disasters or drought.

Tessa raised the need to ask for European grant funding when Eric Pickles, Communities and Local Government Secretary, was called to the House of Commons to answer questions about the worsening floods faced by Somerset’s residents and businesses.

She asked:

“The European Union Commissioner responsible for these matters has made it clear that regional disaster funding is available, with no minimum limit. The Government can define the size of the affected region, and the funding can be made available provided that:

  • serious and lasting damage has occurred

  • that there have been repercussions for economic stability and living conditions in the region and that 50% of people living there are affected.

Does the Secretary of State acknowledge that Somerset clearly qualifies for such funding, and will he ask his colleagues at Defra to apply for it without delay?”

Speaking from Westminster, Tessa said:

“There is a pot of money sitting in Brussels as we speak.  The Commissioner, Johannes Hahn, has said that money could be channelled to help the communities in Somerset worst affected by this disaster.

In order to get help, Eric Pickles, George Osborne and Owen Patterson need to apply to the European Union within the time limit of ten weeks from the first day of this disaster.

We taxpayers pay into Europe, and it’s time we asked for help – that’s what we pay for, it’s only fair and it’s what Somerset deserves.  I don’t know how much more serious George Osborne thinks the flooding can get – but this help is available for precisely this sort of catastrophe.

I'm calling on Eric Pickles, George Osborne and Owen Patterson to apply for this money without further delay.  I’ve even sent them the application forms they need to fill out, so they don’t have to waste more time looking for them!”

Tessa Munt

11th February 2014


  Tessa calling for extended dredging of rivers

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 Tessa and Flooding Minister on Somerset Levels last year

Tessa met with Defra ministers in London this week to put forward the case for dredging of the rivers and the adjoining rhynes so the whole water catchment area is considered, rather than just the rivers Parrett and Tone.

Tessa said:

After welcoming the flooding Minister to Somerset last year, it’s great that we have finally succeeded in getting the Government to agree that dredging is the way forward for Somerset.

“We need to look at the whole area. We have water that can’t get to the pumps and the Axe and Brue valleys have also been affected.

“It affects productive land, such as farmers and anyone who grows and sells their own produce, which is celebrated at great local events like Burnham’s food festival.

“I accept the Levels are a flood plain, but water needs to be taken off, not left there. It’s ludicrous and more needs to be done because just hoping it will get better won’t work.

“We need to make sure there’s money for dredging and the Environment Agency’s role is changed.”

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said he wanted to see a “concrete plan” with input from local authorities, the Environment Agency, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Department for Transport, the Internal Drainage Boards and the Department for Communities and Local Government – submitted to him by the first week in March.

Projects could include a dredging rivers, and other flood prevention measures like tidal doors and tree planting.

Tessa Munt

31st January 2014


 Tessa Munt MP questions Prime Minister about preventing flooding  

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Richard Benyon with Tessa and others

Local MP Tessa took the opportunity at Prime Minister’s Questions this week to quiz David Cameron about progress in changing the priorities of the Environment Agency and Natural England so that productive farm land can be protected from flooding.

Tessa asked “What discussions has the Prime Minister held with colleagues at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to amend the priorities of Natural England and the Environment Agency so as to recognize the value of productive land and the need to protect farmland in my constituency from flooding?”

In reply the Prime Minister said “I have had conversations about this issue with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.  As I announced in the House last week, he will soon bring forward the proposal to make sure that the insurance scheme that protected households in danger of flooding is renewed. We also need to make sure we protect farmland in the way the hon. Lady says, not least because, with global populations rising, the demand for food production is going to increase, and we should make sure we have a good level of food security in this country. ”R Benyon with Tessa and others

Later, Tessa said she was pleased with the Prime Minister’s reply, saying; “This is an encouraging response to concerns raised in a long series of meetings between the Flooding Minister, local farmers and landowners, the Drainage Board, the Environment Agency, the Prime Minister and me.  I will continue to pursue a solution with each of the bodies in the coming weeks.  As far as I can see, the remit of both the Environment Agency and Natural England must be updated to reflect the value of our farmland and demonstrate clearly how it should be protected.  Without this, the farmers and the local Drainage Boards are always going to struggle to find the funding necessary to improve drainage and maintain the waterways properly.”

 

Tessa Munt

19th June 2013


  Local MP Tessa Munt hosts flooding summit with Minister

Tessa_and_Richard_Benyon_Summit.jpgRichard Benyon and Tessa

More than 150 farmers, landowners, tenants and smallholders packed an ancient tythe barn in Theale, near Wedmore last Thursday evening to question Richard Benyon, Flooding Minister from Defra (the Department of Food and Rural Affairs) in an event organised by local MP, Tessa Munt.

Tessa was very keen that the Flooding Minister should see the Axe and Brue valleys so he could view the damage caused to land and businesses by flooding for himself.  After a tour of the Brue and Axe, Richard heard from local farmers about their concerns, the real hardships they face after an extraordinarily wet 2012, in which Somerset saw 135% of the annual average rainfall, and to hear them offer suggestions and solutions to improve the situation.  Many blamed more than a dozen years of neglect, pointing out that no dredging of the rivers or rhynes had been included in the regular maintenance programme, which would at least have allowed the watercourses across the Somerset Levels to work as they were designed to do two hundred years ago.  As a consequence, much of the wildlife and habitats for which the Levels and Moors are renowned was lost, as floodwater sat on the land for many weeks and months.

Tessa said “This visit will have left Richard Benyon in no doubt as to what is needed to improve the farmers’ chances of making a living from the land.  He appreciates changes are necessary, and has taken back to London a clear message for Defra from the farmers of Somerset. ”Tessa Munt and Richard Benyon

 “We must look at ways of increasing the influence of local people in decisions which affect the rivers and rhynes, and ensure those who have knowledge – sometimes going back through the generations – of the best way to drain and manage our precious and unique low-lying farmland.  Part of the short-term solution should be the reinstatement of dredging, so the floodwater does not lie on the land for weeks on end during the summer, causing so much damage.”

“The long-term solution for which I am campaigning is an extra statutory priority for the Environment Agency, which currently has responsibility for the Axe and Brue Rivers, to recognise and value productive land.  Without this I can see the situation occurring again as the climate becomes ever more unpredictable.”

 

Tessa Munt MP

22nd April 2013


  Tessa Munt MP backs Somerset farmers at local Flooding Summit

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The Somerset Flooding Summit took place in Taunton last week, organized by elected councilors from all five Somerset District Councils and Somerset County Council, working as a Steering Group.

The Summit looked at lessons from the recent flooding incidents across the county and at what lessons could be learnt and what went well. The idea is that by joining together, Somerset will be able to speak cohesively and convincingly at a national level and input more effectively into any subsequent national reviews which may occur. The idea of the summit was to understand everyone’s position and establish a positive way forward.

Tessa said, “We knew that we wouldn’t have all the answers, but having all the key agencies represented is a positive step forward.   At the moment the Environment Agency has as one of its aims the protection of housing, habitat and wildlife, which is valid, but they must include the protection of productive land. We need to encourage and protect farmers and not dismiss them.Tessa at the summit

I have asked Richard Benyon, the Minister responsible for flooding at DEFRA to visit my part of the Axe and Brue river valleys so he can see for himself, and meet those who have suffered as a result of flooding. He has agreed and those arrangements are being made at the moment

May I ask anybody whose farms, smallholdings, properties and businesses have suffered losses as a result of flooding since last April to contact me so I may ensure they receive an invitation to meet with the Minister. You can email me on tessampevents@gmail.com”

Following on from the Summit, a report will be compiled and then the Steering Group, will meet again to agree how identified actions will be taken forward.

 

Tessa Munt

18th March 2013

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