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Morpeth Herald

Villagers fear debris screen could increase flood risk......

Lowford Bridge.
Lowford Bridge.

Published Date: 24 April 2010

A DEBRIS screen across the Wansbeck will not increase flood risk, the Environment Agency insists.
The work is being planned near Lowford Bridge as part of the Morpeth flood alleviation scheme to try to stop bridges becoming clogged with tree branches and other debris.

But residents near Mitford fear the plans, which would see a series of poles placed across the river, could create more flooding problems for their homes.

At a parish meeting last week,one villager said: "If the tree screen is put there and the debris builds up it means anybody west of that is in deep trouble.

"In 2008 some of my friends were flooded. The flood came really close to our house, but didn't reach us and there are four properties there that were not flooded, but came close so why put the tree screen at that point?

"If you have got your sums wrong and the modelling is wrong we will be flooded and the tree screen will contribute to that."

He added that the Agency should consider looking at alternative sites, such as a collapsed weir further upstream.

"It would be better to put it where the weir was," he said.

"You could re-create that obstruction, but call it a tree screen and stop everything flowing down the river.

"All of the problems would go away because from the weir onwards there are no homes directly vulnerable and it will not be as obtrusive.

"The area you are talking about putting it now is an area where people walk along the riverside and no matter what you say about these tree screens, they still look like telegraph poles sticking out of the water."

Environment Agency Project Manager Helen Tattersdale said she is aware of the concerns, but she assured residents that no work can take place which will increase flood risk.

And she said further studies have shown the proposal is safe.

"We have had a lot of feedback about the tree screen and after the January consultation we went back and asked the modelling team to look at different scenarios," she said.

"We asked if it was 100 percent blocked what would happen and where would the water go.

"The team produced a short technical note for me on that which demonstrated that there is no increased flood risk to property because of the screen."

Ms Tattersdale said the weir has not completely been ruled out as a screen site, but it is unlikely as there may be construction complications from previous works.

However, other locations are being considered.

"The location is not 100 percent fixed, it could move," she said.

"We have been talking recently about the possibility of a different location, but it needs to be as close to the town as we can get because the further upstream it is the less effective it is.

"As part of the detailed design we need to look again at this and there will be more work done looking specifically at what impact it will have.

"At this point we are comfortable that the proposal will not increase flood risk to other properties, but we will do more work to demonstrate that."

She added: "We are not allowed to do anything that will make the flooding situation elsewhere any worse.

"We have to demonstrate to the people who fund us and approve our plans that they are not going to make flood risk any worse."

The scheme will involve placing poles 3m to 4m apart across the river.
Ms Tattersdale suggested residents could visit Hexham to see a similar project in action.