Council honoured for engineering projects in Northumberland

Northumberland County Council has been honoured for a number of major engineering projects at a glittering awards ceremony.

Thursday, 19th May 2016, 4:14 pm
Updated Thursday, 19th May 2016, 5:26 pm
The reopening of the B6344 road from Rothbury near Crag End which closed on Boxing Day 2012 because of a landslip. Picture by Jane Coltman.

The Institute of Civil Engineering (ICE) North East organises the Robert Stephenson Awards (RSAs) every year as a celebration of civil engineering excellence in the region. The aim is to ensure projects receive the acknowledgement and prestige they deserve.

In the category for schemes over £4million, the council scooped first prize for its Rothbury Crag End landslip project. This £10m scheme on the B6344 road followed a landslip that started on Boxing Day 2012 and worsened during the following months.

Sir Philip Dilley of the Environment Agency at Mitford dam, which is part of the Morpeth Flood Alleviation Scheme. Picture by Jane Coltman

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The repair work was one of the most complex engineering projects carried out by the council in many years. The geology of the ground was so difficult, a great deal of design and investigations were needed before repairs could actually get underway.

The actual construction started in February 2015 after engineers spent the previous year installing a pumping system that could remove millions of litres of water from the ground underneath the landslip.

The work was made even more complex as the landslip took place in a very sensitive environmental area containing a number of protected species.

The physical construction work involved driving hundreds of concrete filled steel tubes up to 80 feet into the ground, with a large concrete beam across the top and 144 ground anchors connected around 100 feet into the ground to stop the land from moving. The road was reopened on Thursday, March 24.

Sir Philip Dilley of the Environment Agency at Mitford dam, which is part of the Morpeth Flood Alleviation Scheme. Picture by Jane Coltman

Northumberland County Council Cabinet member for Local Services, Coun Ian Swithenbank said: "Crag End was an extraordinarily complicated engineering scheme. There was no option for a quick repair – such was the movement of the ground it would have just collapsed again. And while it took some time it was money well spent and it's great the project has received recognition from industry experts. It is testament to the skills and determination of all those who worked on the project."

The public have the chance to find out more about the project at Rothbury Fair Day on Monday, May 30, when an exhibition stand is put up in Jubilee Hall in the town. Staff and contractors who worked on the project will be on-hand to explain the work and answer questions.

At the Robert Stephenson Awards the council was also highly commended for its Hexham Fish Pass project - a £500,000 scheme underneath Hexham Bridge designed to make it easier for salmon and sea trout to migrate upstream to breed.

The fish pass gives migrating fish an alternative route by-passing the bridge footings to swim up two low-gradient channels to continue on their journey up the Tyne and will benefit the long-term ecology of the Tyne for current and future generations

In addition, the Morpeth Flood Alleviation scheme, jointly commissioned by the Environment Agency and the County Council, was also highly commended in the over £4m category.

The £26m scheme is the largest flood-protection project in the North East and included £12million funding from the county council. It was the first time a major scheme to reduce the risk of flooding to homes and businesses has been jointly delivered by the Environment Agency and a local council in the region.

It includes one of the largest flood storage reservoirs ever built by the Environment Agency. The upstream dam and storage area on the Mitford Estate works by storing up to 1.4 million cubic metres of water – enough to fill 560 Olympic sized swimming pools - when river levels are high and would otherwise cause flooding.

Since the start of the scheme in 2013 new defences have been constructed in the town, and existing ones improved. Combined with the upstream storage area, Morpeth is now protected from up to a one-in-137-year flood, or a flood with a 0.7 per cent chance of happening in any given year.