Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Concern at Scheme Delay; More Work to Be Done on Flood Project

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Concern at Scheme Delay; More Work to Be Done on Flood Project

Article excerpt

Byline: Dave Black

FEARS were voiced last night over the future of a vital flood protection scheme in a Northumberland town after it was revealed the pounds 15m project has hit a delay.

Families in Morpeth - where 1,000 homes and businesses were hit in the town's worst ever flooding incident in September last year - are hoping for swift progress on work to upgrade the current flood defences.

A preferred option for the scheme was due to have been released for public consultation by now, but yesterday the Environment Agency said the whole timescale has now been put back for months.

The Agency says more work needs to be done to assess and develop the options, to ensure the best possible economic case is presented when bidding for limited national funding for flood alleviation schemes.

The announcement has sparked fears the tough national squeeze on public spending in the next few years could have a damaging impact on the project's chances of success. Last night Wansbeck MP Denis Murphy said he was concerned by the delay, and is arranging a meeting with Agency chairman Lord Smith with a view to getting the scheme back on track.

He said: "I am disappointed and, given the current economic climate and significant cuts in public expenditure, I am very worried that this scheme may be delayed for far too long." Morpeth town councillor David Parker said he would be extremely concerned and angry if the scheme was to suffer for financial reasons.

"This scheme is vital and must be followed through," he said. "There are people in Morpeth who are very worried about the situation, especially the elderly and vulnerable.

"At no point has the Environment Agency ever said there is any possibility of the thing being delayed by costs. Now it seems that might be the case, and that would be very regrettable indeed.

However, if there is further work to do then it must be done, because Morpeth must get the best scheme possible. …

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