Rural areas ‘abandoned’ by the Environment Agency

The damaged gabion baskets along the River Alwin.

The damaged gabion baskets along the River Alwin.

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A councillor has accused the Environment Agency of abandoning small rural settlements, amid concerns that it won’t carry out repairs to prevent a riverside road from being ‘washed away’.

Coun Steven Bridgett has lashed out at the Agency for not issuing a ‘firm commitment’ to replacing gabion baskets along the River Alwin, that runs past Clennell.

The Northumberland County councillor for Rothbury says the defences were washed into the river – which the Agency is responsible for – during the recent floods.

And he fears that, without the repairs taking place, the road which runs close to the river bank will be washed away next time there is a flood, cutting off Clennell Hall, the farm, the caravan site and homes close by.

In a Facebook post last week, Coun Bridgett said he had been informed by a county-council officer that the Agency felt that ‘the problem is unlikely to generate sufficient damages to allow any works to be cost beneficial’.

This prompted the Gazette to contact the Agency for answers. The Agency told us that it will look to work with the landowner to find a solution, but its priority is to reduce flooding risk and protect people and properties from flooding. The Agency said the gabion baskets don’t pose an immediate flood risk.

Coun Bridgett was not impressed. He said: “The Agency installed these gabion baskets some years ago to protect the road up to Clennell from washing away. I think what the residents and businesses at Clennell are looking for is a firm commitment that the Environment Agency will carry out its duties; replace the gabion baskets and, as a result, prevent the road washing away in the next flood. Their response fills me with very little hope that they will carry out their duty anytime soon – if at all.

“It’s yet another example of the Agency abandoning smaller rural settlements and the people living in them, in favour of the urban masses.”

An Agency spokesman said: “We have visited the site and we will look to work with the landowner to find a solution to this issue. The gabion baskets do not pose an immediate flood risk. Reducing flooding risk and protecting people and properties from flooding is our priority in this instance and we will manage our resources accordingly to do that.”