Dismay over flood protection

Residents of Wansbeck Street in Morpeth are concerned that their street is being left out of the flood alleviation scheme. GM026119
Residents of Wansbeck Street in Morpeth are concerned that their street is being left out of the flood alleviation scheme. GM026119

ANGRY residents say they feel powerless to protect their homes after missing out in Morpeth’s flood alleviation scheme.

Householders in Wansbeck Street have been told it is too expensive to build a protective flood wall for them as part of the £21million town-wide project and instead have been offered ‘property-level’ protection, such as shutters.

However, they say the Environment Agency has carried out substantial work to reduce the risk to Morpeth Chantry across the river from them, as well as to a number of properties in Mitford Road.

Resident David Clark said: “We feel that in a scheme that is protecting in excess of 1,000 homes, to leave out four houses and 11 people because there isn’t the budget is morally reprehensible.

“To defend this little bit of a street is nothing in the whole scheme of things. It is a £21million project. What is another £150,000 or £200,000 to do the job right?

“We feel that we have been really let down.”

And, speaking on behalf of all residents in the street, Mr Clark said there is little confidence that property-level protection will work.

He said: “Even the manufacturers of these products will only guarantee that per square metre they will let through two litres of water per hour. They are so confident in the products that they suggest you get a pump.”

Mr Clark said that if such equipment was all residents were being offered it should have been installed immediately after the 2008 flood.

He added that a lack of other protection may leave residents unable to secure insurance cover and reduce their chances of selling their homes.

But by far the biggest fear is the prospect of another flood.

“In 2008 the damage to my home cost in excess of £50,000,” he said.

“If you have ever been flooded, at a deep mental level every time it rains, even though I have lived in this house for 24 years and have seen the river go up and down, there is a worry at the back of your mind.

“We feel quite powerless.”

He added: “It just seems bizarre that the Environment Agency can defend a whole town and leave out four houses.”

The Morpeth Flood Action Group also has concerns about the level of protection being offered.

Chairman Alan Bell said: “As a group, we are not happy that Wansbeck Street residents have been offered property-level protection because this brings its own problems.

“Wansbeck Street is a terrace and if anyone fails to install their equipment properly then the other properties in the street are at risk of flooding. We would question who is going to be responsible for erecting the barriers.

“We understand that some of these properties would still be flooded in a one-in-50-year event so this would cause problems with insurance and in the current climate they could become uninsurable.”

The group suggested that contingency funds could have been used to boost the street’s defences.

Mr Bell said: “We think that the Environment Agency has bent over backwards to accommodate the demands of landowners at the upstream floodwater storage site. The additional costs for amending the design and construction, we know has come out of the £5million contingency.

“We feel that the Environment Agency should have followed a similar course to provide the required level of protection for the residents of Wansbeck Street.

“It is interesting that this was done for certain properties in Mitford Road when under the original scheme they would have just had property-level protection.”

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “As part of the flood alleviation scheme, we have looked at what could be done to improve protection to properties in Wansbeck Street.

“The idea of building a new flood wall in this area was considered, but the cost of doing so was too high for the relatively small number of properties that would have been protected.

“As an alternative, the Environment Agency is providing households with property-level protection.”