ABERDEENSHIRE Council today unveiled plans for a £12 million scheme to prevent a repeat of the floods which have devastated the Aberdeenshire town of Stonehaven twice since November 2009.
The proposals, which include the use of innovative “floating walls” which can be raised from hidden chambers when the River Carron is threatening to burst its banks, will protect homes and businesses in the lower part of the town against the threat of a one in 200 year flood event.
But furious local residents, whose homes were flooded in 2009 and 2012, said today that they cannot wait until the scheme is completed - mid 2017 at the earliest - and are demanding immediate action from the council to protect their homes.
A group of local residents and business owners have launched a petition, calling on the council to urgently reopen a disused mill lade and culvert to its full capacity, and to remove the rock armour at the mouth of the Carron to allow the river to flow freely into the North Sea.
The council is planning to start work within the next two weeks to put in a new discharge pipe system at the disused mill lade which feeds into the Carron.
But John Briggs, whose carpet and furniture shop in the town’s Bridgefield was flooded for a second time last December, claimed: “It’s a token gesture.
“The effect of that will be like emptying a bath with a tea spoon. We need the mill lade to be opened up to its full capacity. The capacity of the lade is enormous and it’s a natural drain.”
He stressed: “We are not against the main scheme and we believe it is necessary. But the flood prevention scheme could take up to six years before it is completed and the cost is escalating already.
“In the meantime the residents who have been flooded twice already are living with incredible stress And now it has got to this time of year it is coming to a real head. People can’t sleep every time it rains. Older people in the community are concerned to the point where it is making them ill. It’s unbearable, worrying every time it rains that your house is going to be flooded again and you’ve got no money to put it right this time.”
Mr Briggs claimed: “Nothing has been done. There is a bowl in Stonehaven which fills with water and the historic drainage has been removed or blocked up and there is nowhere for that water to go.
“The council would rather do something new than remedy the mistakes of the past.
“It will be four years on Friday - 1 November - since the first flood and we are being told that there is every possibility that Stonehaven could be flooded again.”
Willie Munro, the council’s Kincardine and Mearns area manager, said the council was sympathetic to the concerns of local residents. But he stressed that it was vital to get a full flood protection scheme in place to give local residents the “one in two hundred year protection” needed for the town.
He said: “The flood protection scheme is a top priority. The crucial thing is that, until we get a scheme like this in place, the people are still at risk of flooding and will have difficulties in terms of insuring their properties.”
Mr Munro explained that work was due to begin within the next few weeks on a new discharge pipe in the mill lade. The council was also investigating the possibility of removing the rock armour at the river mouth. But he said: “There needs to be a proper investigation before anything is done. There could be unintended consequences and we could actually make it worse.”
He added: “It is now important that the whole community sees what is being considered so that people can make comment before the scheme moves on to the next stages of the statutory process leading towards its construction.”
The council’s proposals for the new flood protection scheme went on show today at the town’s leisure centre. They include plans for almost a kilometre of new flood walls along the banks of the River Carron. Some will be “floating walls” which can raised up as the river level rises One of the bridges in the town across the Carron would be moved and another raised as part of the proposals to pave the way for improved flood defences.
A council spokesman said: “The overall aim of the proposed scheme is to protect Stonehaven from flooding, while preserving its unique characteristics. Any scheme needs to balance the requirements of the environment, local economy and local community to provide a secure future for the local area.”
Rachel Kennedy, the council’s principal engineer for flood protection, said: “We feel the work we’ve done so far on this significant project has helped us come up with some innovative solutions to the problems.
“The engineering solutions are harnessing technology while addressing the local environment and respecting the built heritage.”