Concern over flood alert

Skinnery Bridge will be re-opened by Christmas.
Skinnery Bridge will be re-opened by Christmas.

A DREADED flood alert was issued for Morpeth, but residents have questioned the need for the alarm.

The Environment Agency issued the alert at 8.40pm on Sunday, warning that flooding was possible and residents should be prepared.

However, river levels remained low and the alert was lifted the following morning.

Mitford Road resident Doug Graham said: “When we got the telephone warning and looked outside the river was rock bottom. Most people would probably just forget about it, but some people took it to heart and older people were trying to move their belongings because they thought there was going to be a flood. The warning frightens the life out of you, yet the river was fine.”

The Morpeth Flood Action Group was also concerned.

Chairman Alan Bell said: “Members were confused as to why the alert was issued. They looked at weather charts and river levels and didn’t see what the great problem might be.

“We have been told since that heavy rain was forecast over Northumberland, but there was very little rain in Morpeth and it was nowhere near as heavy as to cause problems.

“We are very concerned about the distress it causes many people when they get a warning. It might be a matter of education to help people understand what the various levels mean, but we feel that some people are being distressed unnecessarily because they are getting a warning that they don’t really need.

“We are going to ask whether it is possible to split the upper and lower Wansbeck areas because we appreciate that farmers upstream will need to move their animals, but particularly when the storage dam is in place at Mitford it might not be appropriate for Morpeth town to get the warning.”

An Environment Agency spokesman said the alert was based on weather forecasts.

“This was the lowest level of alert, which means that flooding is possible, but not necessarily expected,” he said.

“On Sunday the forecast we were getting was changing. It went quite quickly from being no risk to looking like a lot of heavy rain. We do want to issue warnings before 9pm so when we got the information from the Met Office we sent out the alert.

“The rain wasn’t as heavy as the forecast suggested, but we did the right thing in sending out the alert because if the rain had come people would have seen the river levels a lot higher.”

Work is continuing on the flood alleviation scheme for Morpeth and workers now expect to re-open the Skinnery Bridge before Christmas.

The bridge, which gives access from Dogger Bank to High Stanners, was closed to allow the building of a new wall.

Project Manager Anthony Myatt said: “We have now completed our flood defence work in the immediate area and the public can once again enjoy easy access across the river, avoiding the longer, alternative route.”