MASSES of Morpeth properties could become unsaleable if flood works do not go ahead, an estate agent has warned.
Chartered surveyor Charles Robinson says it is devastating that the Environment Agency is unlikely to find the funding for the flood alleviation scheme to start this year.
And he warned that the delays could have a wide reaching impact on the property market, sending prices tumbling, seeing insurance premiums rocket and leaving hundreds of homes unsaleable.
“It is devastating news, there is no other way of describing it,” he said.
“We have heard stories of extortionate rises in insurance premiums. Some of those happened before the flood works were put off, but if the works are cancelled it is not going to ease the problem and the worry is that it is going to exacerbate an already difficult situation.
“Members of the Association of British Insurers will continue to offer cover to flood affected houses providing the works are going ahead, if they are not going ahead it will mean insurers can refuse cover or hike their premiums every year. We are in a very worrying phase of what is going to happen next.
“If insurance premiums rise to the levels reported, with some people paying more than £300 a month, we are going to have an area of Morpeth that is effectively unsaleable and that is going to have an impact on property prices and the street scene.
“It is not beyond the realms of possibility that householders who have to move out just won’t be able to sell their homes and they could remain empty.
“People who have saved hard and worked hard to buy a property and build up some equity could see that equity written off.”
Mr Robinson said the market has picked up since the deluge of September 2008 as there has been no further flooding from the River Wansbeck and buyers are more relaxed about the risks, thinking a flood alleviation project was set to go ahead.
However, he is worried that now less people will be willing to buy properties in the flood zone and estate agents are bracing themselves for the worst.
“Since the flood two and a half years ago we have seen a relaxing of attitudes towards buying flood affected properties. We have seen an easing of the situation and while insurance cover has been difficult to get, it has been obtainable. We will find out the impact of this latest news about the flood scheme over the next few months,” he said.
“We as estate agents are worried about the impact this news is going to have on the local property market and from the community point of view we are concerned that there could be a blight. If ever there was a case for Government intervention in tragedy it would be here and now. Government is here to look after the well-being of communities.
“We don’t expect the Government to bail out people whose homes have been flooded, but if it can’t do the flood alleviation works then it needs to cajole the insurers into being realistic, rather than just loading premiums. We will have to watch the situation very carefully, but if the worst case scenario does come off it will be devastating for the people affected.”