Morpeth: Anger over second flood in four years

Northumberland fire and rescue search flooded houses in Morpeth Some homes in Morpeth had to be evacuated amid the latest flooding

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Morpeth residents are facing a massive clean-up for the second time in four years after a month's rain fell in 24 hours.

With memories of the 2008 floods still at the forefront of memories, the latest downpours have brought devastating floods back to the Northumberland town and caused the community to start asking questions.

Paul Gillie, owner of Newminster Cottage B&B, said Northumberland County Council had let residents down.

He said: "It should never have happened but here we are, four years of talking, four years of no action and this is the result, this is the reward for it all."

'Phenomenal costs'

But Northumberland County Council has defended its response to the last floods and insisted it had been working to government guidelines.

A spokesperson for the council said it had been working in partnership with the Environment Agency on a flood response.

It had allocated £12m and the Northumbria Regional Flood and Coastal Committee £10.6m for flood defences, plans which had been given the go-ahead to start early next year.

Paul Gillie, owner of Newminster Cottage B&B in Morpeth assesses the damage Paul Gillie, owner of Newminster Cottage B&B in Morpeth assesses the damage

Mr Gille had to evacuate his guests when the River Wansbeck once again burst its banks on Tuesday. Last time this happened Mr Gille and his wife had to completely gut their B&B and start again.

Now it looks like they will have a repeat, four years on. Mr Gille said: "Four years ago it was three feet deeper than this one, coming up to six feet deep inside.

"I'm insured, at phenomenal costs. I pay £2,500 a year - before the floods it was £900 a year, my renewal is up in November this year and I dread to think what will happen to it."

Looking around his business and down the hallway that feeds the bedrooms, dining room and kitchen, you can see a clear layer of sediment.

'Slap in the face'

"It covers all the flat surfaces, the bases of the beds, the carpets, the chairs, the toilets, they're all covered. It's basically sewage, and that's where the smell is coming from," he says.

"If you've not encountered a flood before, it really does stink."

Flooring has been ruined, and a coating of sediment left covering all flat surfaces that the floodwaters touched Floors have been ruined and surfaces left with a coating of sediment

The Morpeth Flood Action Group proposed a levy on all household insurance, regardless of whether a home is at risk of flooding, in 2010, saying that people in flood-risk areas were unable to afford house insurance.

Chairman Alan Bell said: "It's always a worry.

"There's always panic in the town every time there's heavy storms."

But even with all of the plans and finances now in place, the new flood defences were not implemented in time for the flooding this week, and along with other people from his area, Mr Gille lays the blame for this firmly at the feet of the council.

He said: "Defences should have been put in place after the flood in 1963. 2008 was a slap in the face, but this is just taking the mick.

"They've gambled with our lives and livelihoods, and have been caught out badly. If I have future insurance problems I think they should pay it."

Chris Stewart reports from the banks of the River Wansbeck in Morpeth on Tuesday

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