Flood scheme hopes rise

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TWO Morpeth town councillors are optimistic that the Morpeth flood alleviation scheme can be salvaged.

At a recent meeting of Northumberland County Council’s Communities & Place Overview & Scrutiny Committee, Ian Hodge of the Environment Agency said the latest forecast is that the project would get about £10million from Government funding if the business case is approved.

This would mean that close to £10million would be needed from other sources for it to be built in its current form – a mixture of upstream storage and flood walls.

But Coun David Parker, who attended the meeting, said: “I came away from it encouraged by what I heard.

“Although there is a mountain to climb, the people who need to be working on this are doing so and I believe there’s a reasonable chance of it happening – certainly more chance than there was a few months ago.

“The Environment Agency seems to have turned its back on reducing the scheme as it wouldn’t be value for money.

“Morpeth is recognised in the North East and beyond as very important and seen in the region as the number one priority, and the county council is clearly very committed to seeing that the scheme goes forward.”

Alternative funding options could include the Northumbria Regional Flood and Coastal Committee providing money from its Local Levy, Section 106 agreements and/or a community infrastructure levy to get funds from new developments and contributions from the insurance industry.

The other Morpeth town councillor to witness the meeting, Les Cassie, shares Coun Parker’s optimism.

He said: “There was a real willingness from the county council to find this money from its own resources, developers or other sources.

“The technical approval was presented as though it was a fait accompli and the Environment Agency is confident that if approval is given, it will receive the £10million or so suggested.”

From 2012, there will be a new funding system for flood defence schemes, which the Government says will enable it to support more projects across the UK as money from other public sector sources and the private sector will be allowed to fill any gaps.

-The Morpeth Flood Action Group (MFAG) has joined together with similar volunteer organisations to put on a Northern Flood Conference in Cumbria on Saturday.

All of the conference’s committee members have been involved in one way or another with the significant rural and urban flooding that has occurred across the north of England and southern Scotland in the last few years.

The event’s aims are to address common issues through one voice in order to protect communities, debate topics such as insurance, flood defences and community preparedness and agree a way forward in order to effect change of these issues.

MFAG is hosting the afternoon breakout sessions on insurance.

The conference will take place at the Fusehill campus (Carlisle) of Cumbria University between 10am and 4pm. Tickets, which include lunch, are priced £20 and £10 concessions.

For full details and a conference registration form, contact Emily Thompson by telephone on 079718 77424 or email Emily@livingcontinuity.co.uk