One of the UK's largest flood defence schemes will open today in a small market town devastated by widespread flooding in 2008.

Hundreds of people had to be evacuated in Morpeth, Northumberland, seven years ago as the waters invaded more than 1,000 homes.

The new £26 million protection system will store more than 1.4 million cubic metres of water when river levels get particularly high - enough to fill over 560 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

One of the largest of its kind built by the Environment Agency, the scheme has also included the creation of 17 hectares of new habitat for local wildlife - and 3,500 endangered white-clawed crayfish have been relocated upstream of the River Wansbeck.

RNLI crews rescue residents of Morpeth, Northumberland, during the floods of 2008 Credit: PA
The new flood defence scheme aims to prevent scenes like this in future Credit: PA

Environment Agency chairman Sir Philip Dilley welcomed the opening of the scheme.

With one in six people at risk of flooding in England, flood schemes like Morpeth have a key role to play in protecting people and property, and provide a valuable boost to the local economy.

Sir Philip Dilley, Environment Agency