Works agreed for problem at plots site

Progress has been made in dealing with an issue that has led to flooding at allotments in Morpeth.

At a meeting earlier this year, residents informed representatives of Northumberland County Council and the Environment Agency that a blocked underground culvert at the Middle Greens site is causing problems at some of the plots.

It carries water from the Allery Burn through the site, running under two allotments, before going under the road at the end of Bennett’s Walk and discharging into the River Wansbeck.

Coun Andrew Tebbutt, chair of Morpeth Town Council’s property and asset management committee, carried out a range of consultations with county council and Environment Agency officers and members of the Middle Greens Allotments Association.

He made two visits to the site and has received information from the association, including a map of the Allery Burn, and Morpeth Flood Action Group.

And after the committee approved his recommendations at a recent meeting, clearing works will be scheduled for the culvert.

During the investigation work, it was established that the section of culvert at the Middle Greens site is the responsibility of the town council and the section under the road is the responsibility of the county council.

Coun Tebbutt’s report said: “The underground culvert appears to run along a line dividing two allotments, both of which are cultivated. One has a greenhouse on it, which I was told is collapsing into the burn because of the frequent flooding.

“The two allotments immediately adjacent to the open burn, before it goes into the underground culvert, are seriously overgrown. However, the flooding problems may contribute to the lack of commitment by the owners.

“As previously reported, it is virtually impossible to get to the entrance of the underground culvert with the present amount of overgrowth, so a proper inspection will be very difficult. Equally, it would be difficult for Middle Greens Allotment Association to take responsibility for clearing the site.

“I therefore think that the town council will have to take responsibility to clear the site sufficiently to allow for proper inspection.

“I also recommend that we confirm informal discussions with the county council that it will clear the whole length of the culvert and arrange inspection to see if there is any damage.

“I have discussed this matter with Trevor Dixon (the unitary authority’s flood protection manager) and he would be agreeable to Northumberland County Council taking all the necessary actions to clear the ground and culvert and carry out a full inspection of the full length of the culvert.

“Morpeth Town Council would be recharged for the proportion relating to its ownership of the culvert.

“It was also obvious that the burn which runs through the allotments is also very overgrown in places and there appears to be no obvious overall management plan for keeping this burn free of weeds and debris.

“I did see evidence that some individual allotment owners had taken steps to protect the banks of the burn by inserting corrugated iron sheets down the sides. It was perhaps significant those areas of the burn that I could see were completely dry.”

The committee approved a further recommendation to ask the Middle Greens Allotment Association to issue reminders to all plot holders where the burn runs through their allotment that they have individual responsibility for keeping the burn clear of weeds to allow free flow of water.

After the meeting, Coun Tebbutt said: “Whilst the new flood defence system should protect Middle Greens in future, it is very important that we don’t leave a hazard like a potentially blocked culvert to undo all the good work undertaken.

“We are working with Northumberland County Council, the Environment Agency and the Middle Greens Allotments Association to identify the extent of the problem and minimise it as quickly as we can.”