Protecting against flood risk

Morpeth In Bloom 2013'Bluebell Woods Ref: JCMH bloom2013 30
Morpeth In Bloom 2013'Bluebell Woods Ref: JCMH bloom2013 30

STRINGENT new flood risk policies have been proposed in the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan.

The environment group says that an integrated flood plan would sit well alongside the planning document.

And members say it is paramount that planning of development and infrastructure works to a whole catchment, whole system model, rather than piecemeal analysis of individual sites.

Suggested policies include:

l Flood assessment plans should consider impact on the whole catchment area and capacity of the whole sewage network.

l Surface water run-off should not feed into a piped drainage network where it would feed into the pre-existing mixed foul and surface effluent system.

l No surface water from any new development, including Sustainable Drainage Systems (SUDS), should be allowed to discharge into drainage systems or burns while the rivers are in flood.

l Development should actively reduce overall flood risk.

l Grey water systems and SUDs should be actively promoted, but where SUDS are proposed they should be robustly planned, managed and maintained, with responsibilities clearly identified.

The group says the environment must be protected, particularly the rural setting of Morpeth and villages, green approaches to the town, the river character, Carlisle Park, town woodland, street trees, open green spaces, wildlife corridors and panoramic views. It is proposed that Local Nature Reserves and Local Green Spaces designations are endorsed, and a number of sites have been identified for future designation, including Howburn Wood, an expansion at Scotch Gill woods, the wooded Wansbeck Valley downstream to Bothal, Tommy’s Field, Morpeth Common, Cottingwood Common old racecourse, Lancaster Park central field and open land at Kirkhill.

Nature corridors and watercourses are considered essential to retain viable wildlife populations and culverting should be kept to a minimum.

The group also says that the riverside should be an inviting place to walk through the town and development should not be allowed to abut onto the footpath.

The ‘hidden’ nature of Morpeth, with green approaches, is considered a key characteristic worth protecting, as it is for the villages.

It is suggested that ancient woodland merits high conservation status and even buffer zones around some sites.

The group says that Morpeth is virtually unique in Northumberland for its well-established street trees, but the horse chestnuts are coming to the end of their lives so it is proposed that a replacement programme is adopted over the lifetime of the Plan, possibly extending beyond the town centre and making tree-planting a characteristic of new development.

It is suggested that larger, long-lived trees with high crowns would be better than smaller, short-lived trees.

Group members are also keen to encourage walking and say footpaths should be joined into a comprehensive network, linking in to long-distance routes, such as St Cuthbert’s Way. The Wannie Line could be developed as a route.

There are also calls to improve the network of cycle routes, with footpaths and cycleways segregated as much as possible, or at least made wide enough to allow separation.

New developments should extend and enhance the footpath network where possible.

Development should also build in resilience against climate change, move to zero carbon systems and install energy-efficient measures, the group says, and existing buildings should be adapted in preference to new build. Grey water systems could be required for new development and retro-fitting would be encouraged to existing properties.

Good quality agricultural land would be preserved.

The group also says more allotments should be created, with housing development needing to include provision, and community orchards could be identified.

Group Leader Nic Best said: “We looked at the environment issues that people raised during the launch and on the website and took that down to four or five key issues, of which the most important to people was flooding.

“We are hoping that the flood defences being built will be sufficient for the town centre, but there are a lot of surface water issues around Morpeth. One of the issues on the questionnaire says that this has been identified as a serious problem so should we have policies and come up with a range of measures for flood alleviation?

“Also from the environment side, the green corridors, ancient woods and green spaces are all particularly valued. It is all a matter of how much people value these things and if there is a conflict between protecting the environment and development, how we manage that.”

Options

l Retain designated protected sites and consider designating more.

l Leave green corridors along the approaches to Morpeth.

l Recognise and protect open watercourses and other wildlife corridors.

l Make buildings, infrastructure and the siting of development resilient against climate change and energy instability and move towards zero-carbon systems.

l Join footpaths into a more comprehensive network.

l Have a more stringent flood prevention policy, with assessment plans considering development impact on whole catchment areas and capacity of the sewerage network.