The Morpeth flood alleviation scheme is facing an even bigger budget shortfall than first thought, it has been confirmed.
In February the Herald revealed that the original £21million cost of the project had risen to £24million, with no additional funding streams in place.
Now the Environment Agency has said the scheme could run up to £6million over budget.
It is in discussions with Northumberland County Council, which has already committed £12million to the work, about the shortfall, and the Northumbria Regional Flood and Coastal Committee is expected to approve a £500,000 contribution from its local levy budget.
Environment Agency Anthony Myatt said: “We have had to overcome some unforeseen hurdles during construction and the overall cost will exceed the original estimate by £4million to £6million.
“It is not out of the ordinary for expenditure on projects of this size and complexity to be reviewed throughout construction, particularly when doing extensive groundworks in built-up areas.
“Since beginning the scheme, we have done additional work refining the design on the reservoir dam and dealing with unexpected ground conditions in the town.”
He added: “We are working closely with Northumberland County Council to review what additional funding is needed and to look at what funding streams are available.
“We would like to give an assurance that the scheme will be completed as originally planned.”
Northumberland County Council Policy Board Member for Streetcare and Environment Ian Swithenbank said: “The county council has always recognised the importance of this scheme and we are committed to continuing our support, which will bring real benefits to residents and businesses in Morpeth.
“We are pleased to be working with the Environment Agency to help deliver this pioneering partnership project, which is one of the first in the country to jointly deliver such a major flood alleviation scheme, and we have made a contribution of approximately half the project costs.”
The Environment Agency says work on the scheme is progressing well and should be completed by the end of the year.
This week more than 200 members of the public, as well as local schools and councillors, took the opportunity to visit the upstream floodwater storage dam construction site on the Mitford Estate and see work in progress.
The alleviation scheme promises to protect properties in Morpeth from flooding to a one-in-137-year event, the same as the 2008 flood, through a combination of the dam and town centre defences.
Last week the project received national acclaim when it received a Gold Award at the Considerate Constructors National Awards in recognition of contractor Balfour Beatty’s consideration of the community while carrying out the work.