The completion of Morpeth’s £27million flood alleviation scheme has been delayed, but officials say extra protection is in place.
The massive project of town centre defences and an upstream floodwater storage dam was supposed to have been delivered as a welcome Christmas present.
But the Environment Agency has now confirmed that it is unlikely to be finished before the end of February.
And a scheme to reduce flood risk on the Cotting Burn has been put off until the spring.
However, a £6million budget shortfall has been met by Northumbria Regional Flood and Coastal Committee’s local levy and Flood Defence Grant In Aid from the Government.
Once it is fully operational, the main scheme will provide protection from a one-in-137-year flood, the same as that in 2008 when about 1,000 homes and businesses were hit, while the burn standard will be to a one-in-100-year event.
Officials say that while there is a further wait for the full level of protection, work done so far will cover a one-in-50-year flood. In 2012, the town experienced a one-in-25-year event.
An Environment Agency spokesman said: “The main reason the completion has been put back is there was additional erosion around the dam, which took longer to resolve.
“We thought it could be finished in January, but as we go into winter, the weather starts to turn and daylight starts to shorten, which limits the work and takes us to February.
“With large construction projects that is not unusual, but we do want to have it up and running as quickly as possible for residents.
“We do have planning permission for the Cotting Burn scheme, but because of the winter we are now scheduling that work for spring or summer next year.
“The key point for residents is that protection in Morpeth is now in place, even with final works still to be completed. If something occurred like the 2012 flood there would be the protection for residents and properties in the town.”
The majority of town centre work has been completed, or will be finished by the end of the year, but some will carry on into January, as well as at the dam.
Site investigations have been completed for the Cotting Burn floodwater storage area beside Pottery Bank, and bird and bat surveys will be done over the coming months, with construction to start in the spring.
Morpeth Flood Action Group Chairman Alan Bell said: “There have been delays with the scheme, which seems to have happened at just about every individual site of work.
“Unfortunately, you do get delays with construction work. There are always unforeseen problems, but in certain areas we know residents have been livid about delays, particularly in High Stanners and Mitford Road.
“The Cotting Burn wasn’t part of the original scheme. It has taken time to sort the planning permission and with weather conditions being what they are at this time of year that work won’t start until the spring. People there are going to have to wait, and judging by the way the main project has gone it could take six months.
“I think what is in place does offer some protection. Overall, we are quite pleased that things are in position now. Some of the work has taken longer, but the important thing is we are now pretty well protected.
“What we want to see is if this affects our premiums and insurance excesses.”
The Morpeth Flood Information Centre has now closed as a drop-in facility, but appointments can be made by calling 01670 513850.
Information on insurance can be found at www.gov.uk/prepare-for-a-flood/get-insurance