Plans to open flood gates spark concern

The flood wall in Warkworth.
The flood wall in Warkworth.

The Environment Agency (EA) has discussed proposals to reduce the amount of time that the flood gates in Warkworth are closed – sparking some concern from residents.

EA officers attended this month’s Warkworth Parish Council meeting to talk about the plan, which would see the defences at The Butts shut for around 50 per cent of the time over the winter period.

EA policy is to maintain public access to rivers and normal procedure is to keep floodgates open for most of the year, only closing them when water reaches a certain level.

In Warkworth, the gates have been permanently closed, and an examination of water levels had shown that had they been open, they would only have needed to be closed once in the last two years, and only then as a precaution.

The EA said that permanent closure of the gates was causing damage to the seal due to the constant pressure, and there had been complaints from the public unable to access the foreshore.

The plan is therefore to close the gates as a precaution two days in advance of high tides and keep them closed until two days after the high-tide period.

They would also be kept closed over the Christmas and New Year period.

To protect against fluvial flooding, the gates would be closed well in advance of any potential high river levels.

Some residents have raised concerns about this proposal, saying the gates should be closed permanently; the risk to properties from rising river levels outweighed any need for access by the public to the foreshore area; there should be a public meeting to discuss the issue; and the EA is overestimating its ability to respond to events quickly.

In response, the EA said that the decision was one for them to make based on evidence and scientific knowledge and that residents would still be protected from the highest tides and fluvial events.

The EA added that there had been complaints about the gates not being open and it was trying to strike a balance between maintaining protection for residents and access to the amenity area.

The EA representatives advised that they would discuss the issues raised with senior management and inform residents of the outcome.

○ A proposal to introduce new parking restrictions in the middle of Warkworth, in a bid to tackle congestion, inconsiderate parking and high demand for spaces, have sparked plenty of discussion.

The scheme consists of a number of elements, including residents’ permits and short-stay parking for non-residents within the village centre.

At this month’s parish-council meeting, a resident queried whether it was correct that B&Bs and hotels would get permits to match the number of beds they had.

Coun Galilee related the advice he’d been given, that these establishments could apply for more than the standard issue and this would be considered.

However, businesses not occupied by residents would get none, though holiday lets would, so there were some anomalies.

In terms of the cost of the scheme, £30,000 had been allocated originally, but the detailed costs were not known.

The parish council meeting heard that the consultation event in September had been a lively affair. Comment was made that a comprehensive survey of the large-scale parking requirement in the village was needed before progress could be made on other areas.

○ Coun Galilee told the meeting that the St Lawrence’s churchyard walls project was moving on, though the original plan had had to be adapted due to problems being encountered with both walls.

Two trees had now been felled and most of the general repointing had been done.

The rebuilding of the wall at Abbeyfield was going well and the ‘quality of the work was good’.

Additional costs had been incurred for the tree surgeon of around £6,500 and for the archaeologist of around £2,000. The traffic management costs were not yet known.

There was a good chance that works would still be finished by the end of October.

Coun Galilee said that he understood that the church was thinking about planting more trees in the churchyard and hoped there would be some consultation with the parish council on this.

○ A resident has asked whether the parish council would support placing a small sign at the The Butts end of Ember Path asking cyclists to dismount, given that it was very narrow, and cyclists were travelling very fast along it. He feared there would be an accident. Members agreed this could be investigated.

○ Coun Cashmore said that there was still an issue about the security of the fence around the play area, which he felt was totally inadequate.

This had been raised at the meeting with Cussins and it had been understood that this would be actioned to ensure that it was safe.

The chairman reported that residents had done an open letter of complaint to Cussins regarding various outstanding issues – drains were only now being put in and the sewer tanker was visiting every day which was causing a lot of odours and complaints.

○ Coun Cashmore reported that the path down the side of Beal Bank was overgrown with vegetation and ivy. In addition, there was a seat on the corner of Morwick Road/Watershaugh Road where the metal columns had degrade.

○ A defibrillator familiarisation event will take place at Warkworth C of E Aided First School on Wednesday, November 21, at 3.30pm.