Flood prevention success story starts final phase
A FLOOD prevention scheme in Belford which has been hailed a huge success is entering its final phase.
Engineers have been building new ponds on the western edge of the village which slow down the flow of run-off water into the Belford Burn.
An exhibition was staged in Bell View Resource centre last week to show local residents what has been happening.
The £600,000 scheme has worked so well that West Street residents, whose homes were prone to flooding after torrential downpours, no longer live in fear.
The Environment Agency teamed up with Newcastle University to try out the project after some residents and businesses were hit by five flooding incidents in two years.
Traditional flood defences are not suitable for Belford because of the high cost, lack of space and the low number of properties at risk.
They came up with the idea of building ‘soft’ flood defences on farms, using the contours of the farmland near Belford Burn to make temporary ponds to store water before it gets into the town.
They have worked with local farmers and used some of their land to build storage ponds, wetlands, beaver dams and willow features along the riverbank.
In places this has doubled the amount of time taken for water to travel downstream.
Around 40 features that trap sediment, improve water quality, create new ecological zones and slow the flow of water have been built to hold water upstream from Belford during a flood.
Work on the Belford Burn itself has also been carried out with the channel widened to let more water through it and flood walls built to protect some properties.
The project does not just have flood risk benefits, but also create new habitats for wildlife, and help increase biodiversity.
Less agricultural pollution will reach Budle Bay as fertiliser and spray chemicals, which are washed off fields in heavy rain, are collected in the ponds and settle to the bottom, meaning the farmer can remove the sediment when ponds empty, not only saving the chemicals, but stopping them running downstream.
It is now hoped the pilot project techniques could be used on other catchments in this country and possibly even worldwide.
Local resident Geoff O’Connell believes there is now a strong case for that.
“The Belford scheme has been a huge breakthrough and costs a fraction of many flood defence schemes,” he said. “For example, just down the road Morpeth is going to get huge concrete defences costing millions. I don’t know why they couldn’t just work on slowing down the flow of water further upstream, as they have here.
“Similarly, there are vast low-lying areas of the country exposed to flooding whenever there are periods of heavy rain and insurance premiums have gone up as a result. “I’m not saying the Belford ponds idea would work everywhere but it’s got to be worth looking at.”
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Weather for Berwick-Upon-Tweed
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 17 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 8 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 9 mph
Wind direction: North east