Calling on the power of the pen

MORPETH flood victims are being urged to use the power of the pen to call for a re-think on plans to delay the town’s flood defences.

Campaigners want those hit by the deluge in September 2008 to write letters to the Environment Agency board, asking members to consider allowing the Morpeth flood alleviationscheme to continue.

This will include personal accounts of the disaster and help will be on hand on Saturday and the following Saturday to put them together at Sanderson Arcade.

The initiative emerged from a meeting of key local stakeholders last Thursday, which was organised by the Morpeth Flood Action Group.

Secretary Trevor Walmsley, said: “It was a very productive meeting and we decided to mobilise public support with a letter campaign.

“We would like flood victims to include personal accounts of their experiences on the day, as well as say what it would mean to them if the flood scheme is delayed.

“There is a short window of opportunity to push the case for the scheme and we are also asking Morpeth’s organisations to send their own letters of support.

“We’re not looking to raise expectations that it will go ahead this year, but we have got to try for the sake of our community.”

At a meeting of the Northumbria Regional Flood Defence Committee last month, the Environment Agency announced that the £17million project is likely to be delayed following a reduction in its flood management funding for 2011/12.

As it stands, the Morpeth scheme will not receive the £4million it requires for the next financial year which had been anticipated.

Among the organisations supporting the campaign is the Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade.

Vice Chairman George Williams said: “In supporting the initiative, we will not only be supporting our own members but also all traders, all of their customers and everyone living in the town and the surrounding areas.”

Northumberland County Council has sent letters to Environment Agency Chairman Lord Smith and Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Caroline Spelman, stressing its disappointment and dismay about the likely delay.

Council Leader Jeff Reid, said: “It is only in recent months that the last of the displaced families and local businesses were able to move back into their homes and premises, and the effects and legacy of those events cannot be overstated.

“The flood protection scheme would afford protection to almost 900 homes where residents are clearly anxious that their properties might flood again.”

The proposed project would involve a combination of an upstream flood water storage area and new defence walls in the town centre.

Environment Agency Area Flood and Coastal Risk Manager Ian Hodge attended the stakeholders’ meeting.

“We were delighted to be invited along and it was interesting to listen to the community discussions about the potential options for going forward,” he said.

“It is important that any community action carried out is done in collaboration between key organisations and groups.”

As well as help with writing letters, free stamps and envelopes will be provided in Sanderson Arcade on the next two Saturdays between 10am and 3pm.