Water of Leith defences axed after ‘tram-style’ mess

Flooding in the Stockbridge Colonies in 2012. Picture: Kate Chandler
Flooding in the Stockbridge Colonies in 2012. Picture: Kate Chandler
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VITAL multi-million flood works along the Water of Leith in Edinburgh are to be scrapped after costs soared to almost double, with worrying echoes of the city’s mismanaged tram scheme.

A project review was launched earlier this year amid allegations that the first phase in Stockbridge and Canonmills was “over-engineered”, after the price leapt from £17 million to £30m with claims of contractual disputes similar to those which blighted the tramline.

Now it has been revealed that phase-two works costing £25m are to be scaled back between Stockbridge and Roseburn with council chiefs having to raid other budgets to plug a £5m shortfall to deliver works in the Murrayfield area, which has ­severely flooded in the past.

The first phase in Stockbridge and Bonnington was beset by problems, leading to chartered engineer Rob Leech, who helped steer the tram project back on track, being brought in.

To allow the project to ­proceed, planned defences for the Damside and Belford areas, near Dean Village, have been axed while the shortfall was plugged “through a realignment and transfer” of existing capital budgets. The remaining phase-two flood prevention works are expected to start in autumn 2015.

Critics have claimed that an ambiguous contract led to a dispute with phase one contractors Lagan Construction, in a near-­repeat of the row with the German firm Bilfinger, which caused huge delays to the trams.

Green councillor Nigel Bagshaw said: “Phase one resulted in some huge issues and cost overspends and the entire project was over-engineered. In essence, they have used the money from phase two to pay for phase one and there is nothing left for phase three at all.

“It doesn’t look very good, ­especially when you consider the supposed lessons learned during the tram project in ­relation to contracts.”

Edinburgh Council insists it will seek additional funding to carry out flood prevention works to the adjoining section between phases one and two.

It is understood that engineers have issued assurances new works upstream will not increase the risk of flooding to properties.

The scheme was initiated after about 500 properties along the waterway were flooded in 2000, causing £25m of damage.

City transport convener Councillor Lesley Hinds said: “We’ve managed to come up with a scheme that will permanently protect 90 per cent of all residential properties for considerably less money than the original plans, as well as temporary localised measures for properties downstream.”