Village flood scheme highlighted as a national example

Geoff O'Connell.
Geoff O'Connell.

Flood prevention work in Belford has been highlighted as an example to follow nationwide, following severe floods in other parts of the country.

Water experts are calling on ministers to show greater leadership on flooding by promoting back-to-nature schemes which protect lowland homes by deliberately creating floods in the hills.

The Northumberland Wildlife Trust argues that upland schemes to slow river flow cost a fraction of conventional flood walls.

A pilot project carried out upstream of Belford by the Environment Agency and Newcastle University in 2007 has been a huge success.

Here, several ponds have been built to catch run-off water and allow it to soak away slowly rather than rushing downstream into the village.

In an interview for BBC Breakfast, Geoff O’Connell, of Belford Parish Council, said: “Life was fairly miserable. We had five floods in a little over two years and every time it happened people were knee deep in water, carpets were soaked. It was absolutely dreadful and we needed an answer.

“The flooding has stopped altogether now and transformed everything for everybody here.”

Phil Welton, from the Environment Agency, says the UK should aspire to have a pond in every field in the areas where flood prevention is needed.

“We really need to change our thinking about how to deal with flood risk in the UK,” he said. “We have built defences to deal with the problem where it occurs rather than look upstream at where the water runs off the land.

“Really there are so many solutions up and around the catchment that need to be looked at.”

A handful of pilot projects have pioneered cheap small-scale measures, but progress has been slow and funding is a major problem.