Concern at delays to flood works

RESIDENTS in an area of Morpeth will face another anxious winter as flood scheme works have been delayed.

As part of the town’s flood alleviation scheme, defence walls and an embankment are being built and created in High Stanners.

They were due to be finished in August, but a number of issues have come up and the completion date has been put back to March 2014.

Contractors discovered that they needed to divert water mains, a power cable, telephone wires and a gas pipe.

The project, which has been planned by the Environment Agency for more than half-a-decade, was delayed for more than a year when its money was withdrawn and it was saved when changes to how these schemes can be funded enabled Northumberland County Council to come on board to help pay for it.

In response to the latest announcement, chartered surveyor Charles Robinson has criticised the approach of the organisations involved – it has been designed by Halcrow Fox and is being constructed by Birse Civils. He visits High Stanners regularly as his mother-in-law lives in the area.

“With the onset of worsening weather and in the light of what appears to be almost total inactivity on the site in recent weeks, I called at the Environment Agency’s offices in Newgate Street on Tuesday and was advised that the delays were caused by the need to move a power cable, water mains and other items and were beyond the control of the Environment Agency, Halcrow Fox and Birse Civils,” he said.

“What I don’t understand is that this scheme has been planned for years, there has been extensive consultation with residents and other agencies, detailed site surveys have been undertaken and yet the need to move utility services has somehow slipped through the net.

“Given the size of this scheme, surely someone should have know the precise line of these utilities and if they did not, then why were investigations not undertaken before the scheme started to find out the answer?

“The Morpeth Flood Action Group has worked tirelessly to bring about a scheme that will protect the town and its members must be tearing their hair out with the current situation and the apparent lack of joined up thinking and genuine partnership working amongst the various agencies.”

Anthony Myatt, project manager at the Environment Agency, said: “Work on the Morpeth flood alleviation scheme in the High Stanners area has been delayed because of the need to divert water mains, a power cable, telephone wires and a gas pipe.

“These have already been relocated apart from the electricity cable – work on the cable is expected to start next week.

“There have been additional delays around the testing of the materials we are using for the new flood embankment. It is vital that these are exactly right as the banking forms a key feature of the new defences.

“The work in High Stanners was originally scheduled to be completed in August, however this additional work has put back the completion date to March 2014.

“Other works around the flood scheme are progressing well and we will continue to keep residents updated on progress over the coming months.”