Flood scheme faces budget shortfall

MORPETH’S flood alleviation scheme could be facing a £3million budget shortfall.

The Morpeth Flood Action Group (MFAG) says it has concerns about delays and finances for the project, which is now being described as a £24million scheme, rather than the £21million originally stated.

The Environment Agency, which is overseeing the work, says there is no deficit at present, but it is likely that it will run over-budget and additional funding may have to be found.

MFAG Chairman Alan Bell said: “This is now described as a £24million project instead of a £21million one. The Environment Agency has said the money will be coming, but it has not stipulated where from.

“However, we are confident the scheme will be delivered. They are not going to just stop half-way through.”

The project, which includes town centre defences and upstream floodwater storage, is being funded by the Environment Agency, with up to £12million coming from Northumberland County Council.

Project Manager Anthony Myatt said: “The project has not yet gone over budget, but because we have had to overcome some unforeseen hurdles during construction, it is likely that the overall cost will exceed the original estimate.

“We are therefore reviewing whether we need any additional funding and looking at what funding streams may be available if extra money is required.

“It is not out of the ordinary for expenditure on projects of this size and complexity to be reviewed throughout construction, particularly when doing extensive groundworks in built-up areas.

“Since beginning the scheme we have done additional work refining the design of the reservoir dam and dealing with unexpected ground conditions in the town.”

The Herald revealed in November that work to create defences in High Stanners was running seven months behind schedule, with the completion date moved to the end of March.

MFAG says there are also delays at The Chantry and The Terrace.

“We are concerned about what appears to be a lack of progress in certain areas, but we have had explanations from the Environment Agency, which has assured us that overall everything is on target,” said Mr Bell.

“It says the whole thing will be finished in December. It was supposed to be the autumn, but now it is early winter. We feel the scheme is going to be delivered, but it is worrying that it seems to be behind schedule.”

Mr Myatt said: “Work has been progressing well on the Morpeth flood scheme and we are expecting the project to be complete by December. Some of the works in the town have taken a little longer than originally estimated, but this hasn’t delayed the overall scheme because these elements are still due to be completed before the upstream dam part of the project.”

He said parts of the town already have increased protection and work is nearly finished in Mitford Road and High Stanners.