Update on Sandbags

City, Town and Parish Council Update – Sandbags 

Given the occurrence of several flooding-related major incidents in 2023/24, there is public interest in flood protection measures. Therefore, a new consistent policy has been drawn up and has gone through the democratic process; it will be implemented from March 2024.  


The decision notice (5th March 2024) confirms that (subject to call-in) Somerset Council does not provide sandbags or equivalents to householders and businesses as from 13th March.

(Please note: This is decision is not yet active. It’s subject to a call-in period of five clear working days. It will come into force from 13th March)


There is no statutory duty for local authorities (Somerset Council) to provide sandbags in times of heavy rain or flooding to residents or businesses within Somerset Council area.  The former district areas (Mendip, Sedgemoor, South Somerset and Somerset West and Taunton all differed in terms of provision, distribution, and eligibility criterion.  Once Somerset Council was formed in April 2023 there was need for a new, consistent policy.  

Flooding is a high-risk event for significant areas across Somerset.  Clarity on householder and businesses’ responsibility relating protection of their own homes during flood events should be a priority.  


It is acknowledged that sandbags are popular with residents, due to the perception that they are an effective flood management technique. However, if there is a significant flood risk to a property or community, sandbags will only provide a temporary and partial defence. 

The Somerset Council website will be updated from 13th March if the decision is not called in. 


In the event of the decision being active, sample text has been provided for parish and community newsletters too. 


Adoption of the new policy will encourage self and communal preparedness activities in communities, in line with national policy on increasing community resilience.​   



Practical measures for City, Town, and Parish Councils

1. Plan – consider developing a community emergency plan


  • Consider the risks and what you could do now to reduce the impacts. 


  • Are some areas or particular residents in your community more vulnerable than others? 

  • What resources do you have and how could you best work together? 


  • Don’t forget to consider the impact on pets or livestock that would be affected. 


  • Consider signing up for flood warden training. 


  • Once you have done this, promote the plans in your community and regularly check back to make sure they’re still suitable. 

2. Prepare


  • Once you have a plan, think about what you need to make it work. Discuss this with your group and the local community to make sure everyone knows what to do and what to expect.


  • The safety of your group is most important. How will you look after each other? 

  • Consider your communication methods. How will your group keep in contact with each other and your community? 

  • Think about triggers, what would it take for you to activate your plan?


  • If you require equipment in your plan, consider where it’s stored, who can access it and importantly who can use it safely. 


  • Start by identifying the resources already in your community.  Small grants are available from Somerset Prepared to help communities buy emergency equipment. 

  • Test your plans to make sure they’re achievable – you should then be ready to respond in the event of an incident. 


3. Respond 

  • Remember, always stay safe. In an immediate emergency or where there is a risk to life, follow the advice of the emergency services or phone 999. 

  • Put your plans into action, but remember you are not on your own. Tell the responsible agencies if you are affected by an incident – they are all there to support you. 


4. Recover 

  • Incidents and emergencies are disruptive and distressing to those affected, with the recovery process being equally about practical tasks and emotional wellbeing. 

  • Recovery can be a good opportunity to highlight the impacts of potential incidents as well as to build on community spirit and resilience 



Useful links and sources of advice and help 

Somerset Prepared www.somersetprepared.org.uk 

Partnership of agencies in Somerset including Somerset Council and Environment Agency with aim of promoting prepared and resilient communities.  The partners can provide information, advice and small grants. 

Environment Agency  Check for flooding – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) 

Floodline service – 0345 988 1188 

The Floodline service is provided by the Environment Agency, and provides information about buying flood protection equipment, as well as up-to-date flood warnings and advice.    They also offer advice and expertise through education and promotion of good practices to farmers. 

National Flood Forum  https://nationalfloodforum.org.uk/