SEVERE flooding in the North would threaten thousands of homes and cause damage of up to £74m, new figures show.
The Environment Agency’s flood risk management plans for the Tyne, Wansbeck and Blyth rivers look at the whole area of land surrounding a river and work out flood risks and measures which can be taken.
The figures are based on a significant flood with a 1% chance of it happening in any given year.
But agency flood risk specialist Neil Ryan said: “Although there is a small chance that such flooding could happen in any one year, in the course of a lifetime that level of flooding could occur. The longer time goes on the more likely it is there may be an event of that type.”
The management plans break up catchments into smaller zones which are analysed according to their characteristics.
Mr Ryan said that in upland areas attention may focus on restoring peat beds damaged by drainage so they would better hold rainwater and lessen the potential for flash flooding lower down the river.
Other urban areas may benefit from improved flood defences, especially with the predicated impact of climate change.
“These are long-term plans which take into account the prospect of climate change so that we are better prepared to deal with events,” he said.
Other catchment plans will be prepared for the rivers Wear, Till and Coquet.
In Blyth around 1,200 properties are thought to be under threat of flooding, but only half of those at risk are registered with the agency’s Floodline Warnings Direct system.
This alerts people by telephone or other means of potential flooding and the agency carries out an awareness raising campaign every year.
Further studies are now taking place at Blyth to look at options to reduce the flood risk and at Newcastle Quayside to see if the flood walls need to be raised.
The catchment management plans reveal:
On the tidal Tyne up to Wylam, 170 properties are at risk with the potential for an average annual damage bill of £12m.
On the Ouseburn, Team and Don 1,000 properties at risk, 304 of which are commercial.
On the non-tidal River Derwent, 109 properties and 532 hectares of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at risk.
Non-tidal Tyne: 1,257 properties and 47km of regionally important routes at risk.
South Tyne: Main flood risk areas are Haydon Bridge and Warden.
North Tyne: 108 properties with average damages of £500,000.
River Rede: 218 properties and 173 hectares of national park land threatened.
Over the last two years around £9m has been spent by the agency on flood protection works on the River Gaunless in County Durham, and at Corbridge, in Northumberland, banks which collapsed in the 2005 floods have been strengthened and realigned.
In Hexham a major flood protection scheme on the Cockshaw Burn is due for completion this year and improvements have taken place at Haydon Bridge.
Investigations are under way in Morpeth and Ponteland on flood risk management options.