Volunteers in Ballater band together to prevent future floods

FLOOD-STRICKEN villagers have banded together in a bid to prevent another disaster amid fears they have been hung out to dry by the authorities.

Ballater was one of the worst-hit areas in Scotland during the flooding brought on by Storm Frank. Picture: Contributed

The livelihood of the people of Ballater nearly got swept away when Storm Frank sent an unrelenting torrent of water across Royal Deeside over New Year.

More than 300 homes, over 100 caravans and dozens of businesses were left devastated when the River Dee burst its banks and sent several feet of water through the ‘Jewel of the Cairngorms’.

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Now a group of hardy volunteers has pledged to “do what needs to be done” as concerns mount that any countermeasures installed by Aberdeenshire Council may come too late to combat future flooding.

Ballater Flood Group had an independent survey of the river carried out which shows that the river’s overflow area for spate events was “severely compromised”.

And group coordinator Tony Cox claims villagers are living in fear due to the council being tied up in red tape over their response to the flooding.

So in a bid to avoid another disaster on their doorsteps, volunteers hope to set up a “publically funded, private venture” to get first phase flood defences installed.

Mr Cox said: “We’re looking down the barrel of a gun - we know we are going to get another flood.

“It won’t necessarily be of the same order as December but more of the ‘up-to-your-knees’ event.

“There seems to us to be little point to be sitting here waiting for it to happen.”

He added: “We’re going to do something that breaks the mould. The idea is to antagonise the government and the various tiers of bureaucracy into getting off their backsides and doing something.

“The council are the victims of political string-pulling. They are doing nothing. SEPA are looking after the big picture.

“So if we do nothing at all and we have typical water levels associated with autumn/winter we are heading for another flood.”

The Ballater Flood Group hopes to submit an outline planning application to Aberdeenshire Council which will force the authorities to engage with the community in a timely manner.

Mr Cox described the project as being a “joint venture” with the backing of the Scottish Government, aimed at avoiding years of paperwork and jumping through hoops.

He said: “The Ballater Flood Group took the concerns of local people - which is basically an emotion of fear of a repeat event - and we are looking for a way forward.

“What we have done is identified a scope of work, which if carried out, would offer first-phase alleviation for Ballater - it would protect Ballater.

“We are going to submit an outline planning application which will force the authorities to respond.

“And we are going to set up a joint venture company so we can carry on with something you might call a publically funded, private initiative.

“The voice of the community wants this to happen.”

The floods on December 30 left Aberdeenshire Council with a repair bill running into millions of pounds.

Further flooding followed in the weeks after, causing further chaos across the region.

In the weeks and months after the waters receded more and more villagers in Ballater voiced an urgent desire to restore flood defences which were swept away during the unprecedented water levels.

Aberdeenshire Council yesterday vowed to work with the community as officials progress a flood alleviation plan.

Director of infrastructure services, Stephen Archer, said the local authority “want to offer any support we can to communities keen to help themselves”.

He added: “The council is bringing forward a flood protection study to alleviate local concerns, but we will, of course, be happy to discuss any way we can all work together.”