Agency changes flood gates closure period

Environment Agency project manager Anthony Myatt and operations manager Alan Cadas at the drop-in event that took place in Morpeth Town Hall.
Environment Agency project manager Anthony Myatt and operations manager Alan Cadas at the drop-in event that took place in Morpeth Town Hall.

The people who can close the flood gates in the High Stanners area of Morpeth will be given the instruction to shut them at an earlier stage.

Alan Cadas, operations manager for the Environment Agency in the North East, told the Herald at the drop-in event in Morpeth Town Hall on Monday that the procedure has been changed in order to give staff the message one hour earlier than they would have done under the previous arrangements.

He also said that more staff living in or near Morpeth have been trained to operate the gates.

These amendments follow comments from residents after the full defences, which include a storage dam on the Mitford Estate, operated for the first time in early January.

One of the reasons for organising the drop-in event was to give residents the opportunity to find out more about how the scheme works and officers were on hand to answer questions.

Mr Cadas said: “We realised that when the alleviation scheme was put into operation in early January, there were rumours that we had suffered some problems with the defences when in fact everything worked as planned.

“Therefore, we thought it would be useful to hold the drop-in so residents could come along if they were not sure how aspects of how the flood scheme works and the procedures we go through.

“We’ve been able to explain that the more water we can safely get through the town before we need to use the dam, the better. Holding back water too early would affect the storage capacity of the dam.

“It was the right level of event to test things and residents were complementary about the defences, but we recognise that we can make improvements on how we communicate our actions to the public during such an event.

“There were concerns that the flood gates were not closed quickly enough on January 5.

“We were satisfied that they were closed on time, but we recognise what was said and as a result, we have lowered the trigger period which means the instruction to close the gates will be issued one hour earlier than it would have been before this change and more of our staff who live in the area have been trained to operate them.”

He added that residents should not be alarmed if there is flooding in areas such as the leisure centre car park and the green area at High Stanners because this is necessary as part of the defence operations if the River Wansbeck reaches a certain level.

Information supplied by the agency revealed that the upstream storage area was only eight per cent full on January 5. This means that there is considerable storage capacity upstream if Morpeth experiences heavier and more prolonged rain.