RESIDENTS have been assured that Morpeth’s new flood defences will give much better protection to all properties across the town centre.
Detailed information for the £21million alleviation scheme, which will include new walls and embankments, as well as improving existing structures, was unveiled on Tuesday by the Environment Agency and Northumberland County Council in the Town Hall.
It has been designed to prevent the River Wansbeck bursting its banks if there was a deluge on a similar scale to the one in 2008 when more than 1,000 homes and businesses were flooded.
Key to this is an upstream storage dam on the Mitford Estate that will hold up to 1.2-million cubic metres of water. Once the river level reaches a certain point it will automatically start to operate and workers will be on hand to monitor the situation. When it is safe to release the water, it will be filtered through in stages and within 24 hours.
A tree and debris catcher will be installed upstream of Lowford Bridge to stop large tree trunks and branches in order to reduce the risk of blockages at the town’s bridges.
Officials have decided to build a new wall through gardens on one side of Mitford Road, which will also protect homes on the other side. They will be between half-a-metre and one metre in height depending on the slope of people’s gardens.
An earth mound up to 1.2m high will be constructed in High Stanners between Abbey View and the river and there will be a small embankment by St Robert’s Church. A flood wall is to be put in place in the narrower section by Abbey Terrace and works will be carried out on Oldgate Bridge.
The defence at Pretoria Avenue will be extended, but the wall going past the leisure centre is deemed to be in a good condition so it will be left in place.
As well as a new structure in the Chantry garden, the wall near St George’s Church will be raised and substantial works will be carried out at the Terrace.
Improvements will be made to the defences along Bennett’s Walk where required. An embankment is proposed next to the allotment area, with a low wall and flood gate at the end of Crawford Terrace to prevent water backing up to flood Middle Greens.
Project Manager Thomasin Meadley said: “The scheme will phenomenally reduce the risk of flooding in Morpeth and it will provide defences across the whole of the town centre.
“Once it is in place, if there was a similar incident to 2008, the water would stay within its banks.
“We’ve received a huge amount of support from residents and they are keen for us to move things forward as quickly as we can. We had meetings with Mitford Road and High Stanners residents during our first round of consultation in April and they have taken a sensible and pragmatic attitude.
“We’ve been able to determine the height of the walls and embankments based on footage, photographs and anecdotal evidence of the 2008 floods, but householders have had an input into things like landscaping and alignments.
“At High Stanners, the mound has a high point towards the road but we’re trying to keep the area as level as possible so it can be used as it is at the moment.”
Works will also be carried out to the Cotting Burn, Church Burn and Postern Burn.
Concerns have been raised with the organisations that the problem of surface water flooding will be exacerbated in places where there are flood-defence walls.
Ruth Bendell, the county council’s Networks and Infrastructure Manager, admitted that Northumbrian Water will be working to its own schedules and design criteria.
But she added: “We’re working together to try to get as much work done as we can on addressing surface water issues in the next two years and our efforts include making sure that any problems stay within the highways and don’t affect properties.”
A planning application for the scheme is expected later this summer and officials are hopeful that construction work will begin early in 2013.
The project was in danger of not going ahead in winter 2011, but changes were made to the funding system and the county council pledged up to £12million to enable it to proceed.
Information and Environment Agency staff will be available for those unable to attend the Town Hall event at Morpeth Library on Saturday, from 9.30am to noon, Monday, from 2pm to 6pm, and Tuesday, from 9.30am to noon.
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