Morpeth flood scheme gets the go-ahead

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PLANNERS have given a warm welcome to Morpeth’s flood defence scheme.

Environment Agency staff left the Alnwick meeting on Thursday night with the thanks of councillors ringing in their ears.

Members unanimously approved the planning application for ‘flood storage’ a few miles from the town, upstream of Mitford.

In combination with measures already approved in the town centre, it should greatly reduce the risk of flooding like that in September 2008 when 1,000 properties were inundated and scores of people evacuated from their homes.

An earth dam will be constructed across the River Wansbeck associated with gated culverts, allowing the flow of the river to be controlled.

The grassed dam on the Mitford Estate will be 4m wide and up to 7m above the nearby ground level.

It is intended to reduce the risk of the Wansbeck flooding at Morpeth to one in 137 per year.

Controlled flooding will be allowed for up to 5.6 miles, as far upstream as Hartburn, to relieve pressure on Morpeth. Lightwater Cottage, near the dam, will be demolished and rebuilt on higher ground to make it safe from rising water.

In response to suggestions from people living in the Molesden area, passing places will be built on the single-track road leading to the site. After construction ends, county Highways will discuss with parish councillors which passing places should be retained.

Villagers are also urging that the river is kept clear of obstructions such as fallen trees and that it is dredged.

Wildlife will be protected in the dam design and details of a fish pass, allowing safe passage to salmon and trout, must be approved by the county council before the dam is built.

Morpeth Flood Action Group is calling for measures to tackle flooding of the Cotting Burn, which has affected houses in Dawson Place and Butchers

Lonnen.

Moving approval of the Mitford scheme at the North Planning Committee, Coun David Moore said: “I would like to thank the Environment Agency for all the consultation it has done with the people of Morpeth. The amount of meetings and get-togethers has been really fantastic.”

Coun Robert Arckless said the agency’s work on the site visit for councillors had been extremely helpful and was much appreciated.

A year ago, the Environment Agency pledged £10.5million to the Morpeth scheme, less than half the cost. The county council guaranteed up to £12million so it could go ahead.