A KEY part of Morpeth’s £21m flood alleviation scheme has been approved by county planners.
The Environment Agency’s application to boost town centre defences was due to be heard at a meeting of Northumberland County Council’s North Area Planning Committee last Thursday, but it was called off due to bad weather.
Initially, the authority said the meeting would be rescheduled to discuss the matter, but today the proposal has been granted by planning officers under delegated powers.
It means work can start on the scheme as planned early next year.
Environment Agency Area Manager Ian Hodge said: “Further flooding in recent months has demonstrated again the very real urgency for this project to get under way as soon as possible.
“I am delighted to be working very closely with our colleagues at Northumberland County Council to deliver this scheme. The planning authority has shown its support for our work in providing planning permission for the town’s flood defences.
“Flooding has a devastating impact on people’s lives and livelihoods, as we saw here in 2008 and again this autumn. We remain committed to building a scheme that will significantly reduce the risk of flooding in the future and I am grateful to the community for its support and advice in developing the design of this vital project.”
The plans provide for a mix of new flood walls, flood gates and embankments throughout Morpeth town centre, repairs to existing defences and the raising of ground levels. There will also be work to the Cotting Burn, Church Burn and Postern Burn, and at Lowford Bridge nine 5m-high poles will be placed across the river to trap large debris.
However, the work is just one part of the overall project and a separate application for an upstream dam and floodwater storage area at Mitford is expected to be considered by councillors early in the New Year.
The alleviation scheme was given the financial backing it needed from the Government after the county council agreed to provide up to £12m from its own funds for the work.
Deputy Council leader Roger Styring said: “Northumberland County Council is happy to be working in partnership with the Environment Agency and we will continue to do so to see the scheme through to completion.
“We are providing up to £12m towards the cost of this scheme because we recognise how vital it is for the residents and businesses in Morpeth who have suffered from flooding.”
Regional Flood and Coastal Committee Chairman Frank Major added: “The Morpeth flood alleviation scheme is one of the most important projects of its kind being developed in the North East at present.
“By bringing together funding from central and local government the people of Morpeth will be better protected from flooding.
“The committee recognises the urgency of the project, especially following a year of particularly extreme weather. The endorsement of the planning authority is very encouraging news.”
The scheme is due to be completed in autumn 2014, subject to weather conditions.