Flooding protection option approved

Ballater following Storm Frank
Ballater following Storm Frank

The preferred option from a flood protection study carried out in Ballater has been approved.

It will be submitted along with an additional statement to the Scottish Government to prioritise for funding.

But it has led to controversy in the village with “significant weight of opposition” for the preferred scheme, estimated to cost £31 million.

The North East Local Flood Risk Management Plan 2016-2022 was agreed in 2016 and flood protection studies were carried out at sites at risk of flooding.

The plan featured a summary of objectives and actions within the Scottish Environment Protection Agency’s (SEPA) Flood Risk Management Strategy.

After considering the flood protection studies in 2016, Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee (ISC) agreed that Ballater should be taken forward to the 2016-2022 Flood Risk Management planning cycle.

The risk management plan was discussed at last week’s ISC meeting.

The preferred option includes 3.3km of direct defences made up of 1.32km of earth embankments and 800m of reinforced concrete walls with 1.5m of glass walls. A 1km long concrete wall is also proposed downstream of the Royal Bridge.

However, it could result in the relocation of the local fire station, police station and Ballater Caravan Park, while the flood defences would cut through Ballater Golf Club.

Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside Councillor Paul Gibb told the meeting there was a “significant weight of opposition” to the preferred option from Ballater and Crathie Community Council, Ballater Golf Club, Ballater Community Enterprise, the Victoria and Albert Halls Trust and a number of local residents.

He added: “There is also conflict with the Cairngorms National Park policy, the proposed relocation of the caravan park is currently set aside for housing and is also of interest to the Ballater Highland Games. The site proposed for the relocation of the fire station, police station and council depot is also not ideal.

“It’s important to note that the site for the relocation of the caravan park was covered in standing water for at least two days following Storm Frank.”

Ballater Golf Club president Jim Hunter said: “The golf club fully supports flood defences for the village of Ballater but objects to the plan as proposed.

“The club’s preferred route for the defences would follow the existing line of the river at whatever height is deemed necessary. We understand that this is currently being investigated. The golf club are deeply concerned that the proposed plans are considered a fait accompli.

“The golf club and caravan park are major attractions for visitors to Ballater. Any disruption to the service provided to either would have a major effect on the club’s finances, financial position and future sustainability.”

Ballater and Crathie Community Council (BCCC) secretary Fiona Presslie and chair of Ballater Flood Group Tony Cox attended the meeting to state their concerns.

She said: “There seems to be considerable uncertainty as to whether the proposal is in its final form or will be able to be improved, and this uncertainty has resulted in much of the community being unwilling to support this proposal and as such BCCC in representing the views and opinions of the community has no clear mandate to support the proposal.

“We do wish to make it clear that we wish to engage positively and constructively with the council on these issues as we all recognise the need to take this opportunity which is now before us.”

ISC chair councillor Peter Argyle proposed a motion to approve the preferred option saying: “What we have to do in my view is put something forward for prioritisation. We have one option on the table and that is 3A. In all conscience I can’t put forward the idea of doing nothing at this stage. The overriding priority has to be the protection of life and property in Ballater.”

After going to a vote, the motion to go ahead with the proposed option was carried 10-3.