Calls to speed up building of dam

CALLS have been made to move forward the construction of a large protection dam for Morpeth’s flood alleviation scheme.

Following further flooding last week, the Morpeth Flood Action Group (MFAG) wants the Environment Agency to build the upstream storage reservoir on the Mitford Estate in the first phase of the scheme to reduce the flood risk for properties in the town centre.

But officials insist that it would be better to begin with some of the walls and embankments in Morpeth itself.

Construction of the flood scheme is due to start in early 2013, subject to planning permission and the weather, and finish in autumn 2014.

MFAG Chairman Alan Bell, who will be taken to see the exact location of the storage facility tomorrow, said: “We know that the scheme is unlikely to start earlier than scheduled because of the planning process, but we would like the Environment Agency to phase it so that most of the town is given the best protection as early as possible.

“Ideally, the upstream reservoir will be in place first as it will benefit residents throughout the town centre.

“The works should then focus on the areas that are most susceptible, such as High Stanners and Mitford Road.”

The agency applied for planning permission last month and a decision is expected before the end of the year.

North East area manager Ian Hodge said: “I understand the anxiety of the community to progress the upstream storage element of the scheme as quickly as possible.

“In order to reduce risk of flooding to the most vulnerable areas of the town, such as High Stanners and Mitford Road, local in-town defences are vital as they will provide immediate increased protection to the area from the more frequent scale floods such as that experienced last week.

“The storage area alone would not have prevented last week’s flood in Morpeth. The dam will only begin holding back water from the town when the river channel with new defences in place are nearing their safe full capacity.

“The scheme’s upstream storage facility and in-town defences are designed to work together to prevent flooding from very large scale events such as those seen in 2008. Once built, the defences will offer a very high standard of protection for the town.”

Since the floodwater receded, workers have cleared up to 70 tonnes of timber from bridges in the town. Some trees still remain and a crane will be brought in to remove them.

A spokeswoman for the agency added: “Over the coming weeks, teams will remove a large tree at Snuff Mill near Mitford so that it does not move further downstream into Morpeth and workers are looking to remove parts of a fallen tree from the river at Oliver’s Weir near to the Joiners Arms.

“There is also up to 60 tonnes of debris that needs to be removed so it does not get washed downstream.”