Smaller projects may plug flood scheme gap

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A NEW regional allocation system could enable the Morpeth Flood Alleviation Scheme to get some funding this year.

At a recent meeting of the Northumbria Regional Flood Defence Committee (RFDC), it was revealed that the project will not receive an anticipated £4million in funding if the Environment Agency’s proposed budget for 2011/12 is confirmed later this month.

Morpeth’s project score of 5.06 was considered good last year, but a reduction in the agency’s flood management allocation meant the threshold was raised to 14.

However, the committee, made up of north east councillors and Defra representatives, also discussed the Local Levy, where money raised by councils in the region, including Northumberland County Council, is spent on smaller schemes to help protect communities from the risk of flooding.

With forthcoming changes to the committee’s constitution, Chairman Frank Major explained that an amount of money, albeit much smaller than £4million, could still be found to help the Morpeth scheme in the next financial year.

“We will next meet in April as a newly reconstituted committee and as part of this structure we will have greater flexibility in how we allocate funds from the Local Levy,” he said.

“Depending on how things develop in the next couple of months, we may be able to use some of the levy for the Morpeth scheme so officers could attempt to make some progress.”

A majority of Northumbria RFDC members voted to increase the Local Levy by four percent in 2011/12 to £2.4million.

At the moment, it includes an allocation of £50,000 to the Northumberland Community Flooding Partnership and £50,000 for Dune Management at Druridge Bay.