A VILLAGE hit by flooding five times in the last two years is to be used as a test bed for a pioneering new approach to protecting at-risk communities around Britain.
Work is expected to start later this year on a £600,000 pilot project by the Environment Agency aimed at helping to defuse the flood threat in Belford, Northumberland.
Some of the package of measures – designed to tackle flooding from the Belford Burn watercourse and rapid water run-off from the steeply-sloping local farmland – will be trialled for the first time in England and Wales.
Homes in Belford have been hit by flooding five times in recent years, the latest only last month when torrential rainfall saw water pour into holiday cottages in West Street.
The Environment Agency scheme is aimed at tackling the threat posed by the Belford Burn, which runs through the village, by carrying out work upstream.
It includes installing trash screens to prevent debris causing blockages in the stream, altering the channel to maximise its capacity and working with local farmers to help slow the flow of water down the river catchment.
The pioneering proposals will look at how the corners of fields can be turned into wet areas so that surface water drains away more slowly and how tight bends in the burn can be altered to help water flow better through the village.
It is hoped the innovative project, funded by the Northumbria Regional Flood Defence Committee’s local levy, will help develop a successful model for protecting other communities at risk from similar flooding threats. Yesterday, the Environment Agency’s Peter Kerr said spending £3m to £4m on building traditional flood walls to protect Belford could not be justified because of the small numbers of properties involved.
“However, flooding in Belford is happening quite regularly and it is a nightmare for the people involved. We are taking a combination approach which has the overall aim of slowing the catchment down. There is quite a steep hillside near Belford and we are working with local farmers to create wet areas to hold water back for a few hours. Belford will be one of the first places in the country that such an approach has been used.”
Belford parish councillor Geoff O’Connell said he hoped the scheme would be the first phase of a bigger project to tackle surface water drainage problems. “We have suffered from flooding here for years and I warmly welcome this scheme.”
The Belford scheme will also involve gauging equipment being installed in the burn to assess rising water levels and a flood warning scheme which residents can sign up to.
Bid to identify high-risk areas
A FLOOD study has been launched on the Ouseburn in Newcastle in a bid to identify the most at-risk areas along the river.
People living in the North Gosforth area of the city are being invited to tell officials their experiences on Tuesday August 14 at McCraken Park, on the Great North Road in Gosforth, between 4pm and 8.30pm.
The session will give residents the chance to view presentations about the study on the river, which drains the northern suburbs of Newcastle into the River Tyne. The study follows a number of others which have tried to understand flood patterns.
The Environment Agency is leading the study, assisted by Northumbrian Water, Newcastle University, Newcastle City Council, the Ouseburn Catchment Steering Group and JBA consulting.
Short tours are also available of the main study area of the Ouseburn in the afternoon. Anyone interested in attending should book a place by calling Victoria Bonning on (0191) 203-4296.