Action on a Flood Protection Scheme for Stonehaven has moved one step closer to fruition.
A Scottish Government Reporter has recommended Aberdeenshire Council’s plans to defend the town should progress following a Public Hearing in the town in March.
The hearing was an opportunity for the Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals (DPEA) to consider objections to the scheme.
Following a consultation 12 objections were received to the scheme – four were resolved through negotiation but the others remained outstanding. In accordance with legislative procedures, Aberdeenshire Council took a preliminary decision in January 2016 to support the project despite the objections, which officers consider to be outweighed by the benefits to the wider community.
The Council’s Policy and Resources Committee approved funding for the scheme at an estimated value of £14-16 million in September 2014.
It is designed to provide a 0.5% chance of occurrence (1 in 200-year flood event) standard of protection, including an allowance for climate change (33% increase to 2080) and a safety margin catering for uncertainties.
It comprises a number of individual projects, including alteration to five bridges along the River Carron; removing, replacing and raising the Red Bridge and Green Bridge; repositioning the Green Bridge; removing, refurbishing and reinstating the White Bridge in a raised position; replacing the Bridgefield Bridge parapet with a reinforced glass type material; and raising and widening the Beach Bridge.
It also includes construction of flood walls between the Red Bridge and the river mouth, the island downstream of the Green Bridge being removed and installation of two higher capacity culverts on the Glasslaw Burn.
The Scheme will provide a standard of protection well above the current Association of British Insurers requirements, reducing flood risk to 372 residential properties, two public utility sites, a school and an emergency service site.
Scottish Government Reporter, Martin H Seddon, said he had taken all the matters raised by the objectors into account, but none provided sufficient grounds for modifying or refusing to confirm the scheme.
Modifications had been proposed and agreed by the Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee in January 2016 to address some of the objectors’ concerns.
No further modifications have been proposed by the Reporter, who has confirmed the overall scheme. Design work has been progressing on the project since councillors gave the go-ahead in December 2013.
Scottish Ministers notified the council that they would not call in the scheme for a Public Inquiry, referring it back to the Council to hold a hearing.
By law this hearing had to take place before the Council could proceed, considering the written submission objections and giving opportunity for representation.
The Hearing received representation from five objectors and one representative from the Stonehaven Flood Action Group, who indicated the group is in support of the scheme.
The following issues were discussed at the Hearing: visual appearance of the scheme, catchment upstream storage, impact on trees, wildlife and environmental quality, future maintenance of scheme walls, historic decisions regarding the rock armour at the river mouth.
The Council has proceeded with the scheme under the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009, as it has not been possible to secure the land by agreement.
Under section 79 of this Act, once a scheme is confirmed the Council has the power to enter onto land to carry out works.
Before this can happen the council’s Infrastructure Services Committee (ISC) will receive a report in June asking councilors to confirm progression of the scheme, following the Reporter’s recommendation.
Subsequent to this, landowners will be notified and the decision will be advertised, before a six-week period for appeals. The scheme becomes operational after this period.
Aberdeenshire Council’s Principal Engineer (Major Projects), Rachel Kennedy, said: “We are obviously pleased with the outcome of the Public Hearing, because the Reporter’s recommendation allows us to progress this scheme if the Infrastructure Services Committee gives the go ahead in June.
“It was clearly important that objections to the scheme were properly investigated and weighed up against the benefits to the wider community and the extensive work we have done to this point means we should be able to move towards delivery of the Flood Protection Scheme on the ground with minimal delay.”