Minister’s sadness at floods misery

FLOODING minister Richard Benyon has spoken of his sadness at homes in Morpeth being hit for the second time in four years.

He visited the High Stanners area of the town yesterday to see the damage caused by Tuesday’s floods and talked with some of the residents affected, local MP Ian Lavery and members of the Morpeth Flood Action Group.

Mr Benyon also met some of the people from voluntary organisations who have started an appeal to help the victims.

The minister said: “I saw in Morpeth inspirational community leadership where the local community has pulled together at this challenging time.

“It’s really tragic for the community because they have a flood scheme that is about to start which will protect a lot of homes.”

Delays to the process has meant that even though it is more than four years since the last major flood in the town, a planning application for the £21million flood defence project was only submitted three weeks ago.

Mr Lavery also discussed insurance concerns as costs have risen dramatically for many of the people who were affected in 2008.

“I spoke to him about what could be done to speed up work on the Morpeth flood alleviation scheme,” he said.

“The project is due to start in February so it’s not too far away, although we will still investigate the possibility of bringing that date forward.

“But we will also look at starting some of the phases sooner, for example the construction of the flood walls could happen at the same time as when work begins on the dam in Mitford.

“I stressed to Mr Benyon that we need something in place before the Statement of Principles expires at the end of June next year and it has to be better than the current system.

“I’ve heard cases in Morpeth where residents are facing premiums of up to £15,000 a year and excesses of up to £10,000, whilst others have no insurance because they can’t afford it.

“We have agreed to meet again in the next couple of weeks to try and make some progress on the issues facing the people of Morpeth.”