Flood needed a critical level for dam to work

Phil Welton, regional flood and coastal risk manager for the Environment Agency. Picture by Jane Coltman.
Phil Welton, regional flood and coastal risk manager for the Environment Agency. Picture by Jane Coltman.

The Environment Agency has set out why the flood dam on the Mitford Estate was not put into operation earlier on Tuesday.

A key official explained that if it is used too early, the level of protection would be reduced if a major event was to take place.

The storage facility was needed for the first time on Tuesday evening when the River Wansbeck reached the set level following sustained heavy rain. It operates automatically.

Residents contacted the Herald and tweeted the agency to raise concerns that it has not been put into action even though water was starting to come out onto roads and pavements.

Phil Welton, flood and coastal risk manager for the North East, said: “The more water we can safely get through the town before we need to use the dam, the better.

“If we operate it too early, storage capacity will be reduced and the risk for Morpeth town would be greater in the event of a major flood incident.

“It needs to be ready for when the river is at its peak level.”

The flood gates in High Stanners were closed at approximately 3am on Tuesday by the Environment Agency. But the River Wansbeck level went down later that morning, so a team re-opened them between 11am and 11.30am. They were closed once again on Tuesday evening.

Meanwhile, firefighters were called out to Mitford Road as large and deep puddles of water had got onto the road after flowing down from higher ground through the Morpeth Rugby Club fields. They used three machines to pump the water into the river via a passageway between two homes.

Mitford Road resident Doug Graham said: “The fire service was marvellous and we’re very grateful for their efforts.

“The flood walls in our gardens worked well, so the main issue we have now is water running down from Lancaster Park through the fields and onto the road.”