IT has been a long time coming, but Morpeth can breath a sigh of relief as proposals for its new flood defences are now official.
The Environment Agency has been working on an alleviation scheme for the town since 2007, but for a few months last year it was in serious danger of being scrapped.
Thankfully, Northumberland County Council stepped in to save it and after unveiling detailed information in July, the project team has this week submitted a planning application.
And it includes changes to some of the designs in response to comments from residents and community groups.
The £21million scheme involves an upstream storage dam on the Mitford Estate, building new flood defences in the town where none currently exist and improving existing walls and embankments where needed.
Project Manager for the Environment Agency, Anthony Myatt, said: “This is a key milestone in the project. Over the past six months, we have been designing the scheme in detail in order to apply for planning permission.
“We know it is important to people in and around Morpeth and we’ve worked hard to incorporate their suggestions.
“We’ve been talking to residents in the town about how the defences will look and work, as well as residents and landowners upstream in Mitford and Molesden to address their concerns about the impacts of constructing the upstream storage area.”
The design changes include altering the alignment of the flood wall along Mitford Road to meet the needs of riverside homeowners.
The alignment and design of the flood wall and embankment at High Stanners has been amended.
This includes the initial proposal of steps and banking on the river side of the flood wall being replaced with flood gates at access points.
A more detailed traffic management plan for construction traffic has also been submitted.
Morpeth Flood Action Group Chairman Alan Bell said: “We welcome the progress that is being made on the scheme.
“Although we haven’t yet seen the precise details, it appears that the Environment Agency is listening to the community and trying to do what’s best for the residents living close to the defences.
“We’re now looking to have a meeting in the near future with the agency and county council.
“We’ll also be coming together as a group to decide what our response will be to the application.”
In January 2011, it was announced that the project would not be proceeding as planned because its funding score was too low and there were major concerns that all the work done up to then would be for nothing.
But changes to the flood funding process by Defra allowed other organisations to make significant contributions and the county council came on board by agreeing to provide up to £12million from its infrastructure investment package.
Works will also be carried out in the town at Pretoria Avenue, the garden of the Chantry Tourist Information Centre, The Terrace near Morpeth Library, Bennett’s Walk and Crawford Terrace, as well as the Cotting Burn, Church Burn and Postern Burn.
The project has been designed to prevent the River Wansbeck bursting its banks if there was a deluge on a similar scale to the one in September 2008 when more than 1,000 homes and businesses were flooded.
Officers from both organisations are also working closely with Northumbrian Water to address a range of surface water issues.
The application was submitted on Tuesday and the determination period is expected to be 16 weeks.
Subject to planning approval, and weather conditions, construction is due to begin in early 2013 and it is scheduled to finish in autumn 2014.
For more information, call the agency on 03708 506506 or visit www.environment-agency.gov.uk/morpeth