The ‘Plan A’ response to the news that the EA were unlikely to find funding for the Morpeth Flood Alleviation Scheme (see previous post) assumed that the EA Board would not be making their final decision until their March meeting, and that there was time to lobby them. Unfortunately, in the words of our local EA contact:
“The Environment Agency's Board meet each month and we were advised that they would be discussing the indicative allocations at their February meeting but, due to the number a schemes without funding and the representations that had been made, that the final allocation would probably not be agreed until the March meeting. As it happened the Board agreed the allocation at the February meeting. Therefore the final sanctioned list has now been published. The final approved allocation for 2011/12 does not include funding for Morpeth.”
In other words, the lobbying campaign has been pre-empted, and as the EA contact explains:
“At the moment we have not received any scheme allocations beyond the 2011/12 financial year because of Defra's consultation on funding reforms to start in April 2012.
“So at the moment we are facing at least a 1 year delay to the project due to the lack of funding in 2011/12. However, we are currently exploring options to try and secure some level of funding in the 2011/12 financial year to at least continue with some of the planning and design work so that we are ready to start on site if grant funding did become available.”
That is – they are looking for £500k to bring the scheme through technical approval and planning approval, so if and when funding becomes available, they can start work straightaway.
Meanwhile, the Town Council has responded to the Defra funding reform consultation - which is mainly about Government only part-funding schemes and the local community coming up with the rest. And the campaign is continuing to lobby – both looking for a political change of mind (and we know the Government has ‘contingency funds’) and to keep awareness of the Morpeth Scheme live.