PLANS to build a large river dam as part of a £21m project to protect a market town from the threat of flooding look set to be given the go-ahead.
The man-made reservoir on the River Wansbeck is a key element of the long-awaited scheme aimed at avoiding a repeat of the flooding catastrophe which hit Morpeth in 2008.
It will be built upstream from Morpeth on the Mitford Estate, and is designed to protect the town at times of flood threat by holding back and containing floodwater, while allowing the continuing – but controlled – flow of the river.
It is the second phase of the Environment Agency’s chosen scheme to upgrade Morpeth’s defences in the wake of the September 2008 flood, which hit about 1,000 homes and businesses.
Planning permission for the first phase, which involves building new and heightened flood walls and embankments in the town itself, was granted by Northumberland County Council in December.
Next week, the council’s north area committee is expected to approve the agency’s application for the upstream dam, completing the go-ahead for the whole scheme. Yesterday, local campaigners said they hope to see work start on the in-town element next month, bringing long-awaited reassurance to families living with the constant fear of another flood.
Five months ago, dozens of homes were flooded a second time following torrential rain.
Yesterday Alan Bell, chairman of the Morpeth Flood Action Group, said it was good to see that further progress was being made on the flood alleviation scheme.
“We have been told by the Environment Agency that trees will start getting chopped down this month at High Stanners, where a new flood wall is to be built, with a view to starting the actual work in March or so.
“It is what everyone has been waiting for, because we have been living with this for more than four years now and it will be good to see things getting started. Both elements of the scheme are needed to provide the best protection for the town.
“People feel the upstream dam is a good solution that should work, although some have concerns about various aspects of it.”
A report to next week’s planning committee says the dam will be created by using earth and clay to build the 355 metre-long embankment next to the river. There will also be access roads, seven culverts through the dam and a control building.
Planning officers say that, while the development can’t be justified as essential for agriculture or forestry, it forms an integral part of the scheme to reduce the risk of flooding from the River Wansbeck to a one in 137 chance each year.
The proposed access route for construction traffic to the site has been changed, after concerns were raised by highways officials about using Pottery Bank in Morpeth and the B6343 Mitford Road. The revised route uses an un-named road connecting to the A192 via the village of Netherwitton.
Morpeth’s new flood defences, paid for in part by the county council, should be in place by 2014.
People feel the upstream dam is a good solution that should work, although some have concerns about various aspects of it