THE fight for Morpeth’s flood scheme starts now.
Politicians, businesses and local organisations have been working hard to push for the £17million project to go ahead this year since news broke last month that due to a reduction in the Environment Agency’s flood management allocation it is likely to be delayed.
But now we are turning to our strongest weapon — the community — to pile on the pressure.
Today we are launching a petition to be presented to Environment Agency Chairman Lord Smith and the Government calling for the previous assurances that the Morpeth flood alleviation scheme would go ahead to be honoured.
We urge every single resident of the town and its surrounding area to add their signatures and show the strength of feeling that exists about this most vital project.
Businesses too are urged to put their name to the campaign, as well as the many Morpeth workers and visitors who saw the utter devastation of the September 2008 flood.
The flood alleviation scheme is far too important to be put on the back-burner — in fact it is nothing short of essential. Work must begin without delay to put it in place.
Our petition will run in conjunction with a letter-writing campaign by the Morpeth Flood Action Group, which aims to show the officials who make decisions in distant offices the personal tragedy of the 2008 flood and the emotional scars that people will never get over.
We need to let them know the fear, pain and anxiety that any spell of heavy rain causes to people living in the flood zone and the fact that those feelings will not diminish until adequate flood protection is in place.
The excuse given for delaying the project is funding constraints and the difficult economic situation, but in reality the cost of another flood in Morpeth would be far higher than the sums required to complete the scheme.
Residents and businesses who were flooded in 2008 are already facing insurance premium and excess rises of up to 300 per cent and even those whose homes stayed dry are being charged extra.
A Statement of Principles for the industry currently ensures that cover continues to be provided, albeit at a higher cost, but that is due to end in 2013. Then there is the real fear that people will not be given policies and if there is another deluge, dozens, if not hundreds, of properties will be left in a state of disrepair.
Homes and businesses will be boarded up. This cannot be allowed to happen.
We must persuade those in authority to re-instate the Morpeth flood alleviation scheme in the 2011/12 budget — signing this petition may help.
Morpeth Flood Action Group Chairman Alan Bell said: “We want to get everybody involved in this campaign. We would like people to write their own letters, but if they don’t feel able to do that they can sign the petition to show their support. Of course, people can do both.
“Any help and support from the whole of the Morpeth community and surrounding areas would be gratefully received because of the consequences if we don’t get the scheme. If it isn’t in this coming budget and has to go into future budgets we don’t know what the financial arrangements would be, but there would almost certainly be a need to find funding from other sources.
“The Morpeth scheme has to go ahead in this next financial year.”
The Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade has given its full support to the petition and local businesses will have copies for customers to sign.
Spokesman George Williams said: “We are totally behind the petition and we will be lending our support as best we can. This is exactly what we should be doing.
“We have got to get the flood protection in place because if not people who were flooded will not be able to get any insurance in the future. We then get blight, where people won’t be able to repair their houses, houses will be left boarded up and people will move out of Morpeth. The same applies to businesses. There is a great danger here.
“The Government’s attitude is that we have to save money, but we have to question who the Government is working for. Individuals would be much happier to stay dry in a country that is broke, than live in a country that has paid all its debts, but they can’t sell, repair or insure their houses.”
Morpeth town councillor David Parker, who has been appointed to a national working group on flood insurance, said: “I would definitely back the petition and I think the whole of the town council would.
“The decision to delay the scheme has to be regretted. The need for the scheme is just as great now as it ever was and hopefully the board of the Environment Agency can be persuaded to put the scheme back into the programme for 2011/2012.”
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