Press release

£26 million flood scheme unveiled to protect tourist town

A well-known tourist destination in Northumberland, affected by flooding in 2008, will benefit from an innovative £26 million scheme.

Morpeth flood scheme

The Morpeth flood scheme, opening today (Monday 24 August), will protect residents by storing millions of gallons of flood water upstream - one of the largest projects of its kind built by the Environment Agency.

The Morpeth flood scheme will benefit more than 1,000 homes and businesses in the town and is the largest flood protection project completed in the North East. The upstream reservoir on the town’s Mitford Estate works by storing up to 1.4 million cubic metres of water when river levels are high – enough to fill more than 560 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

In September 2008, severe and prolonged rainfall caused 1,000 properties in the town to be flooded and forced hundreds of people to evacuate.

The scheme has also created 17 hectares of new habitat for local wildlife. 3,500 endangered white-clawed crayfish have been relocated upstream of the River Wansbeck – one of the last places in the UK where the native species has a stronghold. Construction has allowed for ‘refuges’ and continued habitat to ensure the crayfish will continue to thrive.

The project has been jointly delivered with Northumberland County Council, which provided £12 million in funding – one of the largest partnership contributions the Environment Agency has secured.

Sir Phillip Dilley, Environment Agency chairman, said: “With one in six people at risk of flooding in England, flood schemes like Morpeth have a key role to play in protecting people and property, and provide a valuable boost to the local economy. Creating large-scale habitat is also vital to ensuring the survival of the country’s endangered species such as white clawed crayfish.

“The success of this scheme is down to the way it has been developed in collaboration with others. In particular, the funding from Northumberland County Council is among the largest contributions received under the partnership funding regime.

“We are making record levels of investment, spending £2.3 billion over the next six years to reduce flood risk to more than 300,000 properties in England, and successful partnerships like this, with local authorities and business, will be key.”

Construction work on the scheme began in 2013 and has included a new flood wall and embankment along the riverside, over 368m long, including three new flood gates. Repairs and improvements to existing defences have also been carried out, with efforts to ensure that the look of the defences fit with the history and character of the town.

Ends

Notes to Editors

PICTURE: An aerial shot of the upstream dam at the Mitford Estate, which works by storing 1.4 million cubic metres of water – enough to fill 560 Olympic sized swimming pools – when river levels are high and would otherwise cause flooding.

Published 24 August 2015