At last: funding is set aside for flood works

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FUNDING has been set aside by Northumberland County Council to help progress Morpeth flood works.

Councillors endorsed a decision by Executive members to increase capital expenditure by £42m between 2011 and 2015.

And among the schemes earmarked for the cash is the Morpeth flood alleviation project, with up to £12m set aside for the work.

Now a detailed business case can be prepared to set out the importance of the scheme and how the money would be used. Once approved, the funding can be released.

However, the council’s allocation would only provide half of the amount required, with the remainder being sought from the Environment Agency.

Morpeth Flood Action Group Chairman Alan Bell said: “The council is now looking at the business case for the scheme, but obviously we are hopeful that it will find it and it will be proved. This is the next step.

“The council realises the importance of Morpeth as an economic and commercial centre and hopefully it will just be crossing the ‘T’s’ and dotting the ‘I’s’.

“Now we are looking towards the Environment Agency to see what it will be doing about funding. We are open minded about whether we will get the funding we need at its board meeting in October.”

Morpeth has been prone to flooding since at least 1839, with the biggest recorded flood happening in September 2008 when more than 1,000 homes and businesses were affected.

The proposed flood alleviation scheme would see new defences built for Mitford Road, High Stanners and around Oldgate Bridge, with the existing defences in the town maintained, and a floodwater storage system installed upstream on the Mitford Estate.

The council also agreed to earmark funding for the Morpeth Northern Bypass (South East Northumberland Strategic Link Road), which was highlighted as being of “major strategic importance”.

The bypass is intended to provide a link between the A1 and the south east Northumberland regeneration area, helping relieve congestion in Morpeth while also attracting companies to the area.

But the scheme was suspended last June as the Government looked at all funding initiatives. Now it has made it into the national development pool, but the county council must come up with at least 30 percent of the total cost, around £11m, and present its case in a competitive bidding process.

Other schemes included in the £42m capital expenditure include £6.8m to address backlog maintenance in schools and a new £20m Ashington Leisure and Community Centre.