Plans for the Stonehaven Flood Protection Scheme will now go before Scottish ministers having been approved with modifications.
The plan was discussed at a meeting of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee yesterday, where Philip McKay, head of roads and landscape services, as well as numerous objectors, talked with councillors about the merits of the scheme.
Talking of the scale of the project, Mr Mckay said: “We are attempting to protect against an event that nobody living in Stonehaven will have seen before, and I’m entirely confident that this scheme will offer that level of protection.”
David McDonald, speaking on behalf of the Flood Action Group of which he is secretary, was the first to speak. He said: “We urge the committee to approve the scheme with modifications at the earliest possible date.
“The balance must lie in favour of the scheme to address some recent negative impressions of the town to attract investment in the flood risk area.”
He added: “While the Flood Action Group is sympathetic to the objections, this is for the residents who watched their Christmas presents floating down the river back in 2009.”
John Briggs, also a member of the Stonehaven Flood Action Group, has his own objection lodged due to a lack of clarity as to how the plans will affect his property and his business - Persian Rugs Scotland at 19 Briedgefield.
He said: “My building is one of the most adversely affected by the flood scheme. It’s been around for 300 years and is listed by Historic Scotland.
“I’m concerned because I have been presented with three seperate plans that affect my building.”
The first plan involved working inside his premises, and subsequent plans involve a flood defence wall extremely close to his own wall.
“The problem I’ve got is that I’ve received no definite proposal,” he explained. “I can’t withdraw my objection with the proposal as it currently is.
“I’m dependent on that building for my living, and my business is under threat by this scheme.”
He added: “I don’t want to hold this scheme up, and I do not want to object, but as it stands, I do not have any other option.”
Mr McKay explained that at the present stage, the details were only about four fifths complete. He said: “There will be consultation with Mr Briggs, he is the building owner, but we have to protect a number of buildings and everything has to be taken on balance and we will have to make some difficult decisions.”
Many of the objectors that came to speak argued in favour of more natural flood defences, citing the example of Pickering in Yorkshire.
Addressing this, Mr McKay said: “Natural flood management works by slowing the river flow down and to do this, you need to keep the water somewhere, which will prevent it from getting down at its natural pace and cause problems at the lower levels of the river.
“There are insufficient opportunities for us to do this in this case.
“A hybrid scheme was looked at as an option but it was more expensive. And when you look at the predictions of 30 per cent higher river levels - and we’ve not had an event like this yet - natural schemes would not provide sufficient protection.”
Councillor Peter Argyle said: “Scrapping the scheme in its entirety is not an option. I look at it very much from the point of view of one whose ward includes Ballater.
“And to confirm it without taking on board the objections would be a non-starter.
“I think we have no choice but to progress the scheme with modifications.”
The committee was in unanimous agreement, and so it now goes to Scottish ministers to either consider it themselves or refer it back to the council. They must take their decision within 56 days.