Hall sale ‘would have impact on flood plan’

County Hall, Morpeth, headquarters for Northumberland County Council.
County Hall, Morpeth, headquarters for Northumberland County Council.

Concerns have been raised about flood evacuation in an area of Morpeth if the proposed closure of County Hall is approved.

Members of the Morpeth Flood Action Group are worried that the sale of the site in Loansdean for residential or other development may have a serious effect on the Civil Contingencies Plan for the town.

Chief flood warden Tom Smith said: “When a flood occurs in Morpeth, the town is cut in two and travel across the River Wansbeck becomes impossible.

“Residents from north of the river are able to go to the Town Hall and then to King Edward VI School.

“South of the river, County Hall is designated as being available for 300 residents and it was used in 2008 and 2012 for that purpose.

“When those floods occurred, people describe leaving home with all their possessions in carrier bags and making their way to the rest centres, where they were able to spend the night, receive dry clothing, medical attention and be fed.

“Clearly, relocating County Hall will make its use by Morpeth residents impossible.”

County councillor for Morpeth North, David Bawn, said this was another example of how plans to close County Hall and open a new headquarters in Ashington have not been properly thought through.

He added: “This is one of a myriad of issues that needs to be addressed before this move is brought before full council for a decision.”

Leader of Northumberland County Council, Grant Davey, said: “With £27million recently invested in a flood alleviation scheme for Morpeth, I think we can fairly confidently expect the risk of flooding in the town and the number of people affected to be greatly reduced.

“Our Flood Action Plan is reviewed at least once a year and as changes in circumstances occur they are taken account of and appropriate changes made to it. If County Hall becomes unavailable as a rest centre, then there are alternatives we could use.

“We hold a comprehensive database of potential facilities across the county, but do not list all available rest centres in the plan, therefore those currently listed for Morpeth are not exhaustive. For example, south of the river there is also Abbeyfields First School, Storey Park Community Centre and Collingwood School and Media Arts College.”