Decision to shelve project sparks fury

FURIOUS Morpeth residents have spoken of their anger after the town’s flood scheme was shelved.

Almost 1,000 homes and businesses were wrecked by the flood of September 2008 when the River Wansbeck broke its banks, leaving many families homeless.

Now they have been told that the proposed flood alleviation project that has been planned for the past two years is unlikely to go ahead this year, and there is no guarantee of future funding for it.

Paul Gillie, who saw his Newminster Cottage home and B&B business in High Stanners swamped by the flood, said: “All we can do is just continue to watch our insurance premiums go up — they have more than doubled so far.

“If there is another flood there is very little we can do about it.

“We hope they are few and far between and just keep our fingers crossed, but if keeping your fingers crossed is the only defence we have got it is not great, it doesn’t keep the water out.

“Every time the river comes up you can feel the worry in the air. People are very nervous.

“I think if we were to flood again we would be in a situation where we wouldn’t be able to afford to insure the business.”

Bill Durning, of the neighbouring Riverside Lodge, said: “We lost our home as well as the business in the flood.

“It cost about £750,000 to get the business back up and running.

“Our insurance premiums have more or less stayed the same because we put flood guards in, but it cost us about £26,000 to cover the doorways and air bricks.

“People are bound to be worried about flooding all the time now.

“People know it might not happen again in their lifetime, but on the other hand it is not something you can dismiss.”

Rhona Dunn, who helped flood victims in the furniture depot and furnishings store, as well as providing emotional support and clean-up help, said the delay will cause great alarm.

“It is disgraceful that the scheme has been delayed. It’s shocking. We were promised that funding was there and the work would get done,” she said.

“I think people are going to be absolutely devastated. People were very depressed when the flood happened, but the idea that a flood scheme was going to be done kept them going. This will be a set back for a lot of people.

“The older people are going to find it really hard.

“I think we will need to help people out again because they are going to feel very vulnerable.

“We have got to keep trying for the flood work and maybe somebody somewhere will listen.”

Les Sage, who was part of the Morpeth Lions fund-raising campaign for flood victims, is fuming at the delay.

He said: “I was under the impression the money was ring-fenced so it didn’t matter who was in Government.

“At the time of the flood people promised us everything.

“Now it has died down and people are back in their homes it is forgotten. It’s an absolute let-down.

“The cost of the scheme this year, £4million, is nothing compared to if we were to have another flood. It is just gambling not to do it.

“I really feel for the older people. Every time that river starts to come up they must be petrified.

For someone in their 20s or 30s they can cope with it, but for someone in their 80s it is a hard thing to have your house destroyed and know that if it happens again you will have to be lifted out by helicopter again.

“It is so disappointing after the effort that everybody put into the recovery, not just the Lions, but the whole community.

“To know it could happen again is just horrible.

“I think we have to be a bit stronger now in calling for the flood scheme.

“Maybe it needs people to protest. We have been let down badly.”