This observer went to the recent meeting and of the Nairn West and Suburban Community Council and here's a succinct report from ComCllr Brian Stewart who outlined the latest situation or basically the lack of action. There seems to be a lack of urgency about this issue at Highland Council.
|When will Nairn even get a flood prevention study - let alone actual augmented defences?|
Here at the Gurn we believe Flood Protection for Nairn should be seen as an emergency and funding should be found just as was for the Couthouse. It is an issue that cannot wait, Nairn needs more flood protection and sooner rather than later. Here is an article on this subject that we published recently.
Here's what Brian Stewart had to say at the Westies meeting last week:
"In the light of concerns raised at January meeting, we wrote to Council and relevant agencies about the specific matter of the Alton Burn overflowing at that time, and we took the opportunity also to ask about progress with the local Flood Risk Management Plan for the wider Nairn area.
We have had replies from SEPA and from the Council. Copies of both can be made available to anyone interested. […] I'll try and summarise the key points are:
Firstly On the Alton Burn
SEPA wasn't really able to identify any reason for the recent high volume of water and overflows into adjacent properties. Their reply provided statistics of rainfall which they describe as “not unusual”. And then SEPA just added the standard reminder that landowners are responsible for ensuring the free drainage of watercourses through their properties.
The Council watercourse inspector had made a scheduled annual visit on 24 June 2019, and a further visit on 5 February. On this later visit he found “some minor blockages” which were removed.
A SEPA official visited on 23 January which is around the time the issue was raised and according to their reply he found “nothing untoward”. So we are still a little bit unclear as to why the burn overflowed into local residents’ properties at that time. That is as much information as SEPA and the Council were able to give us on that particular situation.
On the wider question of action to prevent and protect against local flooding,
SEPA drew up an overall strategy back in 2012 which set out the timeline for completion of studies, preparation of plans and final publication by 2016. This was obviously not met.
In 2015 SEPA published a further strategy document. This identified the risks and impacts of flooding for each potentially vulnerable area (PVAs). In the case of Nairn, there are three such areas. Two are the responsibility of Highland Council, and one comes under Moray Council’s plan but with Highland Council as the lead authority.
The reply we got from Highland Council describes the current position and outlook, based on an interim progress report (which is available online).
Nairn West and Ardersier which is the potentially vulnerable area through which the Alton Burn flows. No action has yet been taken. The first step – which is a Flood Protection Study – is due to be carried out between 2022 and 2028.
Nairn Central is the highest risk area in the Highlands after Inverness (2nd highest out of 23 PVAs in the region). The Council’s reply to our letter said a study was scheduled to have been done between 2016 and 2019. It wasn’t. There is at present no funding to undertake such work. In March 2018, the allocation of funding for this initial study which was deferred until the period 2021 to 2024. So nothing has been or can be done because the funding hasn't been allocated. The Council did say that they hope to invite tenders for the study in 2020. Then once money is allocated and the study is done, the Council then expects to take “a couple more years” to finalise an Options Appraisal Report. So any actual practical steps to protect or prevent flooding in the Nairn Central area unlikely until 2023 at the earliest and quite possibly not until 2028-30.
The third area, Nairn East and Auldearn is the one that comes under the umbrealla of Moray. The initial study was supposed to be linked to the Nairn Central one, and was due to have been completed by 2019. It wasn’t. It too has now been pushed back to sometime after 2024, for the same reason: no money has been allocated.
So in summary, a timeline set in 2012 for delivery by 2019 has now slipped by almost a decade. And this is only for the first stage, of studies. Implementation of any actual prevention and protection works required is therefore unlikely to begin until sometime between 2025 and 2030 at the earliest.
It will not have escaped people’s notice that – by contrast – major flood prevention works along the River Ness have been completed and delivered over the past couple of years. Those who travel east will also have noticed the massive flood protection-schemes, also now complete, on this side of Forres and up the Mosset Burn; and on the far side of Elgin.
What can be done?
Firstly I think the answer is simple. Two things are required. Money and political will. Both were clearly brought to bear to ensure action in Inverness and in Moray.
If the people of Nairn – especially Fishertown – and those who live alongside the Auldearn and Alton Burns, are going to be protected from the threat of flooding and everyone is worried about climate change and the level of risk. Then I think we have to look to our own representatives of Nairn on Highland Council (which decides the funding allocations and the delivery of the plans and protection schemes) to do what ever they possibly can to ensure that action protect is put as far as possible up the agenda.
With a general uk view of managed retreat from rising sea levels (not sure of the scottish government view). I wonder if, and then at which point, the council might decide to abandon sections of fishertown. The longer flood prevention is delayed might it become less likely to be done due to increased sea level risk over river flow rate risk? I hope not.
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