Devastating toll of the flood water

Flooding in Morpeth , September 25th 2012'A fireman pumps out the boiler room at the leisure centre.
Flooding in Morpeth , September 25th 2012'A fireman pumps out the boiler room at the leisure centre.

ABOUT 45 Morpeth properties are thought to have been flooded last week.

Abbey View, Challoner’s Gardens and East Mill were among the areas affected when the River Wansbeck burst its banks on Tuesday, September 25, and water came out of the Cotting Burn to flood properties in Dawson Place, Butchers Lonnen and Copper Chare.

The Environment Agency issued three flood warnings for the town – Morpeth Riverside at 4.09am, areas in Morpeth town centre, Low Stanners and Middle Greens at 7.26am and the River Font at Longshaws Mill.

The River Wansbeck peaked at the Mitford gauging station at 2.66m deep. The highest level ever recorded was 3.6m during the floods of September 2008.

Agency North East Manager Ian Hodge, said: “We have great sympathy for the community of Morpeth, who have just experienced yet another devastating flood, and our thoughts are with them.

“Our teams have been working round the clock and are doing all they can to give support in the aftermath. We are liaising closely with our professional partners, the Morpeth Flood Action Group (MFAG) and flood wardens.”

People living in the flood-hit areas were among those to have their say at a MFAG meeting on Monday, along with town and county councillors.

The group is urging them to help it compile a detailed report into the incident.

And members are also hoping that the county council and emergency services will provide all the necessary information.

The actions of the flood wardens to inform householders to prepare for flooding, particularly in High Stanners, was praised at the meeting, but there was criticism of the contingency group response.

MFAG Chairman Alan Bell said: “We have agreed to write a report about last week’s events, which will include a detailed timeline showing what happened on the day.

“We would like residents to get in touch with details about what happened where they live, or do their own timeline, and we will be calling on the police, county council and Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service to give us as much information as they are prepared to make publicly available. In the circumstances, they should be very open and provide as much detail as possible.

“The overall impression at the meeting was that residents want to know why there was a lack of response from the emergency services once the flood warnings were issued at just after 4am. We had many meetings and an input into the county’s action plan, which was supposed to make sure the mistakes in 2008 did not happen again.

“Concerns were raised about the potential impact of the Morpeth Northern Bypass causing further problems for the Cotting Burn, although the project could give the county council and Environment Agency the opportunity to carry out some substantial works to sort out the issues with it once and for all.”

He added that the homes at the back of High Stanners did not get a flood warning until 7.26am because they are linked to the Low Stanners and Middle Greens areas in the warnings system.

Another meeting of the group is taking place on Monday in the RAFA Club, Wellway, from 7.30pm. Alternatively, people can get in touch with members via www.morpethfloodaction.org.uk

Information about insurance and the effectiveness of individual property protection measures, such as flood guards and door barriers, will also be welcome.

Mitford Road resident Geoff Parkin, a Senior Lecturer in Hydrology at Newcastle University, is doing a similar study to the one he did about the 2008 floods. He is asking for photographs showing flood levels at different times through the day and descriptions of how, where and when it happened.

Comments can be made via e-mail to ceg.water@ncl.ac.uk or post to Geoff Parkin, 39 Mitford Road, Morpeth, NE61 1RG. Photos can be taken to Stait Photography in Newgate Street where staff will copy the images onto a CD free of charge.

For more information, visit http://ceg-morpethflood.ncl.ac.uk/2012

Meanwhile, the Chief Executive of the National Flood Forum (NFF) has expressed his sympathy with those who were flooded.

Paul Cobbing, who has been in close contact with MFAG, said: “It’s really tragic that Morpeth has suffered yet again when we know there are solutions that could have been put in place before now.

“The latest flooding across the country shows the importance of flood risk management, which should be the top priority for the new Secretary of State at Defra and other organisations.

“The issue must not be put on the back burner six months or so later if there have not been any further major flooding incidents.”

Residents with questions about any flood-related issue can telephone the NFF advice line on 01299 403055.

A flood appeal fund set up by Morpeth Lions, Rotary and Soroptimist clubs under the banner of Morpeth Voluntary Service Organisations raised just short of £4,550 in four days of collections.

Organisers are awaiting further information about how many and to what extend people have been affected before deciding how the money will be distributed.

Lions President Simon Pringle said: “We are very pleased with the total. It just shows how generous the people who come to Morpeth are.”