UK & World News
Environment Agency Slammed For 'Success' Claim
Flood victims in the Somerset Levels have reacted angrily after a senior official hailed the Environment Agency's performance as a "success story".
It comes as the agency prepares to launch a major flood management plan to divert water away from areas already under water.
Director of operations David Jordan told a press briefing that the 5,000 homes flooded during the winter storms were "individual tragedies".
But he added: "We need to recognise that 1.3 million other properties would have flooded if these flood defences had not been built.
"That is the success story, if you like, that we are talking about."
Reacting to the comments, one Burrowbridge resident told Sky News: "What the Environment Agency has done and how they've handled it has been atrocious."
Another resident, who has been campaigning to get rivers dredged, said: "They've been successful in employing some fantastic people on the ground but the overall management and the policies that have created this are appalling."
The comments provoked an angry response from Tory MP Ian Liddell-Grainger, whose Bridgwater and West Somerset constituency has been among the worst affected areas.
He said: "What a stupid bloody man. To call this a bloody success story. This is getting worse.
"This is absolute stupidity and arrogance. This is a tragedy and disaster.
"The Prime Minister said it is a biblical scene, and he was right. It's not a success story.
"This is an out of touch, out of control quango which is stuck in a time warp of arrogance and stupidity.
"I only want five million quid to dredge a river, and he is talking about a success story."
This sentiment is a common one on the Levels, where Environment Agency workers have been praised for sometimes working through the night in difficult conditions to build defences.
It is the management that has been heavily criticised, with much anger directed at the agency's Chair Lord Smith, who received a hostile reception on a visit to the flood hit villages this week.
Today, the Environment Agency is expected to begin a major flood alleviation project to send some of the water down the River Parrett and into relief channels.
It is hoped this will divert water away from badly-affected areas like Moorland and Burrowbridge, but residents of villages along the relief channels have expressed concerns about the plan.
Ron And Jude Smith live in Aller and have been flooded four times since Christmas.
They said: "It's an ambitious plan and if it works and the water goes where it should then great, but if it goes wrong, our village is going to get hit badly."
Aller Parish Council warned residents of the works online, writing: "We will be doing this in a controlled manner, with staff located at key sites, and will continue to monitor the situation 24 hours a day."
Royal Marines are likely to help complete a large blockade of bastions in the village tomorrow before the waters are diverted.
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