Four rivers in west Dorset will benefit from funding worth more than £650k to reduce flooding.

Some 40 projects will use natural flood resilience processes as preventative measures, such as planting trees and creating wetlands to reduce the risk of flooding as part of a £25m government programme which is in place from now until March 2027.

West Dorset was chosen as one of the projects as part of the Natural Flood Management Programme.  

The £668,000 fund is to be distributed between six flood resilience projects on the rivers Brit, Simene, Asker and Mangerton.

Once completed, the hope will be to reduce flooding to areas around Bridport, Beaminster and Netherbury.

This funding comes after a winter of wet weather saw areas around the west of Dorset flooded repeatedly due to rain falling on already saturated ground, causing huge disruptions. 

The projects will be delivered by Dorset National Landscape Partnership, formerly the Dorset AONB Partnership.

All proposed measures in the county are intended to slow the flow of water through the catchment, and include leaky dams, in-field and in-channel storage- such as ponds and scrapes, land use changes, and floodplain reconnection.

Plans are still in the development phase, which runs to September, when the partnership will have a clearer idea of the exact sites, measures and running costs.

A spokesperson for Dorset Council, speaking on behalf of the partnership, estimated that around £276k will go into Natural Flood Management, with the possibility of the river Simene receiving around £121k of this. The River Asker could see £85k for its flood management, whilst the Brit could get £55k and the Mangerton, £15k, according to the current plan.  

At the time of writing, it is estimated that around £215k will go towards monitoring the rivers, whilst £117k of  funding has been earmarked to go towards development, engagement and staff.  This will leave around £60k for the plan’s contingency.

The spokesperson said: “The programme is intended to help prove the concept [of slowing the water's flow], hence the investment in monitoring; we intend to engage a team of citizen scientists to help.

They added that the projects 'will dovetail' with other initiatives in the catchment, such as the Brit Landscape Recovery project, led by West Dorset Wilding.”

Cllr Ray Bryan, Dorset Council’s Portfolio Holder for Highways, Travel and Environment, said: “This wet winter’s floods have shown us how important it is to slow the flow of water across entire catchments, reducing flood risk to vulnerable roads and properties. We’re proud to host the Dorset National Landscape Partnership and be part of this project.”

Dr Phil Sterling, Dorset National Landscape Partnership Chairman, said: “We’re delighted at this bid’s success, which will help us build on our partnership with farmers, landowners and conservation organisations throughout the Brit catchment to reduce the impact of flooding in a nature-positive way.”

The programme aims to provide wider benefits to the environment, nature and society using natural processes such as tree planting and wetland creation.

The Environment Agency led the reviews of applications with input from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and Natural England.

The funding builds on a £15m pilot scheme which ran until 2021, and was reported to have reduced the risk of flooding to 15,000 homes.

Environment Agency chair Alan Lovell said: “It’s exciting to see such appetite for Natural Flood Management, recognising its value in providing not only benefits against flood risk but also wider support for nature recovery.

“I’m proud of the role the Environment Agency is playing in leading this pioneering programme. We look forward to working with partners to help natural techniques become a mainstream option for flood protection and help create more climate resilient places.”