THE threat of a public local inquiry to Selkirk’s £25million flood-protection scheme appears to have been washed away.
Doncaster developers Berand Homes had objected to the project, which will shield about 600 homes and 100 businesses – including Bannerfield, the rugby club and Philiphaugh Community School – from further flood devastation.
But Scottish Borders Council yesterday agreed to move an embankment which is part of the scheme and had affected Berand’s plans for 30 homes on land beside Linglie Road and Cannon Street.
With Berand expected to drop its opposition following the modification, Selkirkshire councillor Kenneth Gunn is glad the threat of an inquiry, which would have required the intervention of Scottish Government ministers, appears to have faded.
He said: “I am delighted. It is unfortunate that there has been an objection, but this has been overcome. There have been lengthy discussions between the council and the developer, and basically it means an embankment will be moved which was going through the proposed housing development.
“The scheme should have been started some time ago, but we are now at the stage where advanced work has all been done and it just needs the 80 per cent funding from the Scottish Government which a much smaller protection scheme in Galashiels received.
“It will be an advantage for us as well as the developers.”
Fellow Selkirkshire councillor Vicky Davidson believes the initiative’s status as the first major project with an environmental statement to seek approval under the new Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009 will be beneficial.
She told us: “The scheme needs the Scottish Government to provide the majority of the funding and we need to continue to push for that, but I am quite optimistic.
“It will be the first scheme to go through the new act and hopefully that works in our favour.
“And I am really pleased that there will be additional floodwater storage upstream at St Mary’s Loch.”
Councillors approved the spending of around £500,000 in January 2011 to progress the scheme.
The largest part of the project – set to cost £10million – will be the erection of 1,600-metre walls to alleviate the threat from the Ettrick Water to the 1,100 people employed in the Riverside area.
Work would also take place at Philiphaugh (cost £4m), Long Philip Burn (£2.24m) and Shaw Burn (£1.64m), although it is unclear how it will be funded.
Rob Dickson, SBC’s director of environment and infrastructure, added: “This is a big moment for Selkirk and SBC as we have gained approval on the penultimate stage of the formal process in taking this scheme forward.
“This scheme is vital for the town as it has suffered from flooding twice in the last 10 years, and we are confident that we can protect against a one-in-200-year flood event in the future.”
Mr Dickson said the final scheme is likely to be presented to a new council in June, if Berand’s objection is resolved.
“We anticipate that approximately £25million will be invested in the scheme and we want to ensure that our proposal is acceptable to the public,” he added.
Councillor Gunn added: “I have no doubt this will not just benefit Selkirk, but also the Ettrick and Yarrow river systems. It will also mean the people of Bannerfield will not need to sleep with one eye open for fear of their homes being flooded.”