Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Rising Cost of Keeping Flood Water in Check; Levy on Councils Will Finance 28 New Projects

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Rising Cost of Keeping Flood Water in Check; Levy on Councils Will Finance 28 New Projects

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Henderson and Dave Black

A LEVY on North East councils for flood defence projects was upped by 20% yesterday. The rise from pounds 1,542,000 to pounds 1,850,000 for 2009-10 was approved by the Environment Agency's Northumbria regional flood defence committee.

When money already raised by the committee and contingency funding is added, next year's budget will be pounds 2.3m.

The levy will pay for a programme of 28 projects.

They include:

pounds 60,000 towards the pounds 250,000 cost of raising two bridges on the Ouseburn at Gosforth which are thought to have contributed to flooding last September.

Working with farmers and land managers on the River Till catchment in Northumberland to restore flood plains and to explore the threats and opportunities of climate change.

Backing a scheme to educate pupils in 80 schools about climate change.

A replacement flood wall in Haydon Bridge and floodbank improvements in Bellingham, Northumberland.

Improving public uptake of the Environment Agency's flood warning system.

Flood plain restoration at Lamesley in Gateshead.

Peter Kerr, agency levy programme manager, said that the levy brought in around pounds 1m in matching funding from other partners.

The current 23 levy schemes include creating 40 small ponds upstream of Belford in Northumberland to soak up flood water and appointing community flood wardens in Ponteland.

Urban areas such as Newcastle and Gateshead have also benefited through the Living Waterways project.

This reduces the risk of flooding from urban streams by involving communities in their upkeep and improving natural habitats.

Another project is tackling 6,500 km of drainage ditches, or grips, in the North Pennines, which is causing peat bogland to dry out.

More than 200km of grips were blocked last year and another 400km is being targeted.

Committee chairman Frank Major said: "This is a substantial levy increase and its approval is a vote of confidence in a very valuable programme which can continue at full strength. …

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