A ceremony to mark work beginning on the multi-million pound Selkirk flood prevention scheme has been hailed as a significant moment.
The comment came from council leader David Parker after he helped Scotland’s minister for environment and climate change, Paul Wheelhouse, cut the first sod.
Mr Wheelhouse was in Selkirk on Tuesday, alongside First Minister Alex Salmond and his Cabinet, for a public meeting in the Victoria Halls.
He took time out to don protective gear, grab a shovel and share the turfing ceremony with the council leader.
The cost of the scheme has risen from an original estimate of £28.8million to £31.4million.
Experts claim it will protect 595 properties – including 120 businesses which employ around 1,200 people. It also helps protect a number of important infrastructures. They include parts of the sewage treatment works, Philiphaugh Community School, the rugby club and an electricity power station, as well as parts of the A7.
The Bannerfield footbridge will also be strengthened at a cost of £879,000. Flood risks will also be reduced on the Yarrow road and at Lindean.
Eighty per cent of the bill is being picked up by Holyrood.
Councillor Parker commented: “This is a significant moment for Selkirk. No-one from the town will forget the flooding which devastated Bannerfield in 2003, and significant effort has been put into the flood protection scheme to ensure Selkirk is protected from an event of this kind again.
“With the backing of the Scottish Government, this scheme will encourage business growth and employment with the Royal Burgh by safeguarding almost 600 properties.”
Preparatory work is already under way and will increase over the summer, with major construction starting in December. It is due to be completed by December 2016.
Mr Wheelhouse said the scheme would have a positive impact on residents and businesses.
He added: “Communities such as Bannerfield living under the threat of flooding know only too well the devastating effects it can have and that is why flooding remains a priority for this government.
“In particular, this project, aside from protecting houses, will also protect the very important Ettrick Riverside area which is home to many of Selkirk’s established and new-start businesses.
“By continuing to invest in measures to mitigate the impact of flooding and reduce the risk of it happening in the first place, we are providing invaluable support to some of the most vulnerable communities in Selkirk and, indeed, across other similarly-affected areas the country.”
Project manager Colin Price commented: “The level of works will increase this summer and we will engage with the community on the closure of roads, as well as the Bannerfield footbridge which will have to be closed on a number of occasions.”