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Somerset village gets new Dutch flood defence scheme

The village of Stolford in coastal Somerset has become the UK’s first place to benefit from a flood defence scheme pioneered in the Netherlands.

20 properties and around 70 hectares of agricultural land in the remote community overlooking the Bristol Channel will benefit from the new ‘Hillblock’ system, a form of block revetment.

This form of defence, used extensively in Holland, will provide a higher standard of flood protection than the village’s current coastal defences and will also be cheaper to maintain.

John Curtin, executive director of Flood and Coastal Risk Management at the Environment Agency, said: ‘This is an exciting engineering first for UK – the new technology installed at Stolford can reduce wave energy by up to 30 per cent compared to the shore protection traditionally used.

‘It will provide valuable protection to this Somerset community and the surrounding agricultural land.

‘It is also a great example of our joint work with the Dutch government, with whom we have a long history of mutual sharing of knowledge and best practice in the management of floods and climate change.’

The Hillblock system uses a series of specially-shaped concrete blocks to absorb the energy from storm waves, significantly reducing wave run-up.

This will enable the reduction of existing defences in Stolford, a community with a history of coastal erosion and vulnerability to flooding.

Stolford’s coastal defences previously consisted of rock armour and an embankment wall, which became more vulnerable to coastal erosion and cost around £50,000 a year to maintain.

Nol Vincent, project manager at the Environment Agency, said: ‘The use of an innovative and proven Dutch system at Stolford has enabled us to deliver an economic alternative to rock armour at this remote location on the Somerset coastline.’

The £1.5m scheme has been funded largely by the Wessex Regional Flood and Coastal Committee and the new Hinkley Point nuclear power station currently being built on the coastline.

The Dutch government also contributed £100,000 under the Partners for Water Scheme, which looks to facilitate the global use of Dutch water management schemes.

The scheme will allow Stolford’s current shingle ridge to return to a natural state, and will also permit continued public access along the embankment, which has a nearby wildlife habitat.

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