Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Flood Defence May Be Two Years Early; Politicians Say Work Can Be Done by 2011

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Flood Defence May Be Two Years Early; Politicians Say Work Can Be Done by 2011

Article excerpt

Byline: Dave Black

AVITAL flood defence scheme to protect Morpeth from a repeat of the recent catastrophic flooding could be completed within three years, it was said yesterday.

Hopes are rising that the town's pounds 13m flood alleviation scheme - originally due by 2014 - could be completed more than two years ahead of schedule, in late 2011.

The suggestion was made yesterday by Wansbeck MP Denis Murphy and senior Morpeth councillor David Parker, after recent meetings and conversations with Government ministers and top officials of the Environment Agency.

To achieve the target of late 2011, planning of the project will have to be accelerated by up to five months and the construction period reduced from three years to between 18 months and a year.

Yesterday the Environment Agency suggested the new forecast could be optimistic, saying the current timescale would not see the project completed until spring 2013 at the earliest.

More than 1,000 homes and businesses were flooded when torrential rain caused the River Wansbeck to burst its banks on September 6 - and there has been a campaign in the past two months to speed up delivery of new defences.

Mr Murphy - who has raised the issue with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Floods Minister John Healey and Environment Agency chairman Lord Smith - said he was now optimistic the scheme would be completed much earlier than expected. "I am satisfied that funding for the scheme is now in place and hopeful that it can be completed in about a year instead of spread over three years. That would mean it being finished in 2011, compared with the original timetable of 2014.

"To be fair to ministers, they have pulled out all the stops on this and the money is there. If we could get this project finished by late 2011, it would be a tremendous achievement and a wonderful opportunity for Morpeth. …

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