Saturday, October 09, 2021

Flooding issues in Nairn(shire) - Community Council letter a useful source of information for residents

The copy of the NW&SCC letter below will get you up to date on what isn't happening re flooding dangers in Nairn:

Nairn West and Suburban Community Council

4th October 2021

Ch Insp Jen Valentine,

Chair, Nairn & Nairnshire Community Planning Partnership

c/o Police Scotland


(sent by email)


We were pleased and encouraged that in the discussion of this subject at last week’s Partnership meeting, you undertook to pursue follow-up contacts with SEPA and other local authorities to add momentum to the necessary action on flood precautions, and to involve Community Councils in that process.

You will be aware that certain areas of Nairn are highly vulnerable to flooding especially when heavy rainfall and high river-levels coincide with high tides in the Moray Firth. There have been several serious flooding episodes in recent years. The pattern of climate-change suggests that the risk will increase and flooding become more frequent.

The Police and Fire and Rescue Services (and indeed the health and welfare agencies) are all heavily involved in contingency planning for the response to flooding incidents. We appreciate and support this – although we obviously hope that such incidents are rare and that emergency action will not be required.

Our role as Community Councils has been to address the wider context and to press for appropriate prevention measures to reduce the risk of damage and disruption caused by flooding. You might find it useful to have a brief outline of the efforts we have made – and continue to make – and to draw attention to this in your dialogue with the relevant authorities. Our focus has been on two areas for action.

Local infrastructure

First, the problem of infrastructure capacity within and around the town. Much of the drainage and sewerage network especially in the older parts of town is Victorian, of limited capacity and in need of maintenance and replacement. At times of high rainfall and run-off, there is a particular problem with the discharge of storm water, ‘grey’ water and untreated sewage through Combined Sewage Overflows (CSOs) directly into the river Nairn, and with ‘burst’ draincovers for example in the Merryton/Maggot area. This in turn raises pollution levels in the river and affects the water quality at the beaches. There are also ongoing concerns about the capacity of the drainage network and the efficiency of the waste-water treatment works by the East beach, especially with the massive expansion of housing development at Lochloy and Kingsteps in the past decade.

Between about 2014 and 2017, faced with compulsory EU directives on bathing water quality, SEPA convened a local “stakeholder group” to address the failure of Nairn’s beaches to meet the required standards. The CCs participated along with Highland Council, SEPA and Scottish Water. Regrettably our efforts to persuade the two agencies to bring forward investment in upgrading the networks, preventing CSO discharges, and implementing flood-prevention measures in the upstream catchment areas, fell on stony ground. Once SEPA had instituted a water-testing programme and installed electronic warning signs about water quality at the beaches, they disbanded the local working group. Meanwhile the problems of infrastructure capacity and indeed sewage overflows and bathing water quality remain.

Flood prevention measures

The second area for our efforts has been around the delivery of the agreed official government strategy for flood prevention. SEPA are the lead agency for the analysis and strategic planning of flood prevention measures. They published a national strategy in 2012, a further updated document in 2015, and a speciific Flood Risk Management Plan for this area in 2021. These all identify and task the local authority – Highland Council – with the responsibility to lead the implementation and delivery of actual measures.

Nothing much has happened. No precautionary and preventative studies are being undertaken, and no new measures are being planned or put in place in the Nairn catchment area. No physical works have been undertaken in any of the three Potentially Vulnerable Areas (Nairn West, Nairn Central, and Nairn East/Auldearn) - all of which are assessed by SEPA as being among the highest-risk in the entire region.

The contrast with the action taken in recent years by Moray Council in Elgin, Forres and elsewhere, and with the substantial works recently completed along the River Ness, has not passed unnoticed in Nairn.

As community councils we have repeatedly raised the issue with our Councillors. Representations have also been made by local residents to our local MSP. Those living in Fishertown and nearby flood-prone areas continue to fear further flooding. Residents of the newer Lochloy housing estates continue to raise concerns about water and drainage problems. The recent evidence of developer ambition to build further large-scale housing on two or three sites in Nairn underlines the need to address both infrastructure capacity and flood-risk mitigation.

NW&SCC wrote formally to the Chair of the Nairnshire Area Committee (Cllr Heggie) in January 2020. He did not reply; a response from a Council official said that there was “the intention to progress studies” but that there was no budget or allocated funding to do so.

The two Nairn CCs jointly made further representations on 25 July 2021. The letter was copied to you at the time, but I attach a further copy for ease of reference. That letter sets out very clearly the nature of our concerns. The Area Committee Chair acknowledged receipt, and undertook to respond “when back in harness”. We have had no such response.

We therefore hope that as NNCPP Chair, as well as in your Police Service role, you will be able to reinforce to the relevant agencies (SEPA and SW) the need for early progress and investment in upgrading and improving the capacity of the town’s infrastructure based on reliable and up to date analysis of the risks in the local PVAs; and that you will be able to persuade Highland Council to assign greater priority to the local flood prevention task and to allocate funding and engage in practical action rather sooner than they appear to be doing at present. We will be ready to provide whatever support or further information we can to assist you in this task.

Yours sincerely,

Sheena Baker

Sheena Baker

Chair, NW&S CC


Cc: Cllr Tom Heggie, Leader, Ward 18 Highland Council, Cllr Laurie Fraser, Cllr Liz MacDonald, Cc: Cllr Peter Saggers,

Cc: Fergus Ewing - Scottish National Party -

Cc: David Haas in the absence of Acting Ward 18 Ward Manager,

Cc: Ariane Burgess - Scottish Green Party -

Cc: Hamish Bain, Chair Nairn River Community Council

Cc: NW&SCC – Community Councillors