October 6, 2008

Answers to the Vital Questions

WITH blame flying in all directions, spokesman STUART BRENNAN from the Environment Agency has answered concerns about the handling of the floods.

Q: Has there been a debrief to look at how the Environment Agency's procedures worked in response to the emergency and what was the outcome? Are there any lessons that have been learnt from the disaster?

A: The Environment Agency held its main debrief on September 18, and is now in the process of putting an action plan together. This will mainly focus on whether resources were sufficient and the training competency of staff, the systems and procedures in the incident room, welfare, health and safety of operations staff on the ground including use of personal protection equipment as well as communications internally and externally with emergency services and local authorities.

Q: Is work being done to speed up the flood defences programme to stop another similar disaster in the future and is anything else being done to reduce the risk of it happening again?

A: We are developing a flood defence improvement scheme for Morpeth.

The initial site investigation has been completed and the environmental assessment has started.

There are two main options available to protect Morpeth - higher walls within the town or upstream storage.

Throughout 2008/2009 the project appraisal will be progressed with the aim to develop the preferred option towards the end of the financial year.

The scheme is estimated to cost pounds 13m.

Q: Are staff from the Environment Agency still on the ground in Morpeth as part of the clean-up operation? If so, what are you involved in and how much longer is it likely to take?

A: Environment Agency operations staff are continuing to work throughout the area clearing debris left by the floods.

On the River Glen and River Breamish in North Northumberland, flood waters washed away some flood banks and created new river courses. These new courses have left landowners and farmers with serious damage to agricultural land.

Where farmers want to repair floodbanks they will need Environment Agency consent.

Affected landowners should contact Caroline Brumwell at the Environment Agency on 0191 203 4035 to arrange a meeting to discuss options at specific sites.

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