Design work starts to flow

DESIGN work for Morpeth’s flood alleviation scheme is in full swing following a funding boost.

The project looked in doubt earlier this year after the town missed out on an expected £4million allocation for 2011/12.

A national reduction in the money provided for flood defence work meant there was greater competition for funding and the Morpeth scheme did not have a high enough score.

But changes to the process, which allow other organisations to make significant contributions, led to Northumberland County Council committing to spend between £7million and £12million in principle over the next five years.

Now the Environment Agency has begun planning work for the project and it will put forward a revised business case for national funding which will be reviewed by its board in October to decide whether it will be progressed in the next financial year.

A spokeswoman for the organisation said: “The next step for us is to do a detailed design for the scheme, which will better enable us to give final costs and will put the scheme in the best possible position if it gets funding for next year.

“The preferred option for the scheme is upstream storage at Mitford and walls and banks through the town. We also plan some improvement work on culverts.

“Once we know these costs, we will also know what magnitude of contribution we’ll need from Northumberland County Council and it will need to consider these costs at an Executive meeting.

“Although the scheme has been approved as being affordable and technically possible, in making its decision the board will need to balance the risks and costs at Morpeth with other schemes across England and Wales.

“And the whole programme of work for 2012/13 is not official until the Northumbria Regional Flood and Coastal Committee has approved it in January.”

If the outcomes are positive, construction work would start in autumn 2012.

Chairman of the Morpeth Flood Action Group Alan Bell said: “We’re encouraged by what we’ve been told by the Environment Agency and pleased that detailed design work has started.

“Hopefully the scheme will get the go-ahead in October so that construction work can finally begin next year.”