THE River Wansbeck is set to be diverted for a while as part of the Morpeth flood alleviation scheme.
The river will be diverted through a temporary man-made channel at Mitford within the next two weeks so that work can progress on the construction of a floodwater storage dam.
The creation of the 100metre diversion channel is nearly complete and will ensure that the watercourse bypasses the location of the new dam.
The project has involved intricate piling work and hydro-seeding of the new river banks to restore vegetation and encourage wildlife to remain in its natural habitat.
Staff from the Environment Agency have also been moving rare native white-clawed crayfish from the Wansbeck to a safe new home upstream of the dam to allow the work to go ahead without causing any impact on the protected species.
Project Manager Anthony Myatt said: “We are really pleased with how the scheme has been progressing so far.
“The diversion of the Wansbeck to allow the dam construction is a significant milestone in the project so this is an exciting time for everyone involved.”
The £21million flood alleviation project, which also includes town-centre defences in Morpeth, is being led by the Environment Agency and Northumberland County Council.
Extensive work has already taken place in High Stanners, with the current phase expected to be completed by the end of the month.
However, teams will be starting work on the footpath along Abbey Terrace and Abbey View next week.
The scheme will see the roads closed daily from 8am to 6pm on weekdays for up to 12 weeks. Traffic will be diverted along Challoner’s Gardens and Hollon Street.
Skinnery Footbridge will also be closed, but the footpath will remain open.
Elsewhere, work is due to start soon on strengthening some of the balustrades on Oldgate Bridge.
And teams will be hard at work on the construction of a new flood wall at The Chantry.
The Grade I-listed building, which dates back to 1296, is home to the Northumbria Craft Centre, Chantry Bagpipe Museum and Morpeth Tourist Information Centre, and it will remain open throughout the work.
The construction of the wall should take about two months.
Morpeth Flood Action Group Chairman Alan Bell said: “We think that the channel at Mitford is good progress. Seeing the work going on does give some reassurance to people, but obviously there is still unease every time it rains.”
The entire flood alleviation scheme is scheduled to be completed in autumn 2014, depending on weather conditions.
For more information, visit the project team at the Flood Scheme Information Centre in Newgate Street, which is open Tuesday to Friday, from 10am to 2pm. Alternatively, email morpeth@environment-agen cy.gov.uk