A farmer on the Somerset Levels has slammed 'townies' who he claims could have led to homes being flooded, writes Phil Hill.

Norman Parker, of Hancox Farm, Stoke St Gregory, was angry that a complaint by neighbours caused an operation to get flood water off the moors to be limited to the daytime.

The Environment Agency says it still managed to pump 28 million tonnes of water into the River Tone over Christmas and into the New Year.

Mr Parker said: "The water's been quite high due to all the rain we've had.

"The pumping station is on 24 hours a day, but the extra pumps brought in were only working eight or so hours a day.

"We had a chance to get the water level down overnight, but some people said they didn't want the noise at night time.

"It's like the townies who move to the countryside and don't like the church bells on Sunday morning."

Mr Parker added that the water has subsided but levels will rise again if we have more heavy rain.

He said: "We've had lots of houses under water in the past and don't want it to happen again.

"In the countryside, we all have to help each other. I feel sorry for people in houses who could get flooded.

"A few years ago the pumps were on all night.

"The problem is people from other parts of the country come here, say, 'What a lovely place' and then try to take over."

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An Environment Agency spokesman said staff worked over the festive period to remove water stored on floodplains on the Levels as a precaution in case of further heavy rain.

He added: "The biggest challenge was reducing the 13 million tonnes of water in Currymoor, which was at capacity and partly spilling into Haymoor.

"The pumping station can run 24/7 and pump seven tonnes of water every second into the River Tone.

"Eight temporary pumps were brought in, at a cost of £5,000 per week, and in operation for 11 days. For seven days they operated 24-hours a day. The remainder was during daylight hours.

"Reducing the pump rate equated to almost an additional day of pumping - not a significant delay.

"But with residents’ co-operation, we were permitted to pump at full capacity to further reduce water levels in a shorter time.

"In total, we removed 28 million tonnes of water from the Somerset Levels and Moors."