Separate plans drawn up for surface water

THE need to progress Morpeth’s flood alleviation scheme has meant surface water plans are being developed separately, according to the Environment Agency.

The organisation’s Area Flood and Coastal Risk Manager Phil Welton answered questions about the project put forward by the Morpeth Flood Action Group (MFAG) at a meeting of the Northumbria Regional Flood and Coastal Committee in the Town Hall.

When the issue of surface water flooding arose, he explained why there will not be any proposals about it to accompany its planning application for measures to reduce the risk from the River Wansbeck and burns through the town.

“Investigations are being carried out by ourselves, Northumberland County Council and Northumbrian Water, but we’re not at an advanced enough stage with surface water to integrate it into the alleviation scheme,” he said.

“Including some firm proposals about it would delay the project by several months and we weren’t prepared to accept this. We will make sure that the works we do don’t make surface water problems any worse.”

Mr Welton added that if solutions were identified which were likely to bring in new benefits, additional funding will be sought.

His predecessor Ian Hodge, now an Operations Delivery Manager for the agency, said the issue in general is being examined by the Government.

Sewerage Manager at Northumbrian Water, Mike Madine ,said a drainage project to benefit some homes in Bennett’s Walk and Middle Greens will start in September and there will be a community event before then to show what will be happening.

Another MFAG question related to the works that will be carried out on the Cotting Burn as it has been the cause of more floods in Morpeth than the River Wansbeck.

Mr Welton said: “The Cotting Burn is very much in our plans and the improvements to it and the Church Burn will provide a one-in-100-year level of protection.”

The construction element will cost about £10million and the combination of new, raised and refurbished defences will allow a one-in-50-year flow of water to pass through the town centre without needing to operate the upstream storage dam.

It was also revealed that the approved business case included the provision to make the defences stronger and taller in some cases in future years if the area is effected by climate change. Funding would need to be sought for the changes, although Mr Welton said the process would be more streamlined than the one for the main scheme and is being designed in such a way to avoid having to dig up the foundations for any adaptation works.

Committee Chairman Frank Major thanked the Morpeth community for its input into the flood defences.

He added: “We started on this journey five or six years ago and I won’t be happy until I see the first spade or excavator on the ground starting work on schedule early next year.”

MFAG Chairman Alan Bell said: “We were very pleased with the turnout for the committee meeting and town hall exhibition earlier in the week.We raised some issues with the Environment Agency and county council and we hope that efforts to deal with surface water and sewerage issues are dealt with in a suitable timescale. We also await detailed information about how the alleviation measures on the Cotting Burn will be brought into step with those planned for the Wansbeck.”

Environment Agency Project Manager Thomasin Meadley said: “We are really pleased that so many people are interested in the work we are doing to reduce the risk of flooding in Morpeth. There has been a fantastic turn out at our public events over the last week or so, and we have received lots of positive comments and useful information. This will help inform the design of the scheme and our construction timetable.

“We will be applying for planning permission later in the summer, after which we will continue to work with residents, landowners and businesses as we head towards construction.”

For more information visit www.environment-agency.gov.uk/morpeth