Flood barriers to focus on at-risk housing

Costs for the work in Stockbridge spiralled. Picture: Greg Macvean
Costs for the work in Stockbridge spiralled. Picture: Greg Macvean
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Delayed flood barriers set for the west of the city are to be scaled back and focused on areas of at-risk housing.

The next stage of the Water of Leith defences between Murrayfield and Roseburn was put on ice after soaring costs in the first phase left the council with a £4.7 million budget shortfall.

But now city chiefs are set to plough ahead with a cut-down version of the scheme, concentrating on the areas of dense housing most prone to flooding.

It is understood the council will begin looking for contractors in the next couple of weeks, with work due to begin next autumn.

A £107m overhaul of the city’s flood defences along the Water of Leith was announced after the Capital suffered the worst floods in 80 years in April 2000 – leading to the evacuation of around 40 homes and three old people’s residences.

But the first stage – between Stockbridge and Canonmills – was mired in controversy as costs spiralled from £18m to £30m amid claims the plans were “over-engineered”.

Rob Leech, the troubleshooter credited with bringing the trams project back on track, was parachuted in to oversee the ailing project.

Green councillor Nigel Bagshaw said: “In phase one there was a very open-ended contract that left the council open to huge risks, and there was a massive over-spend which meant there has not been enough money for phase two.

“But the lessons do appear to have been learnt. They seem to have taken quite a robust approach to make sure none of these problems occur again. It was appalling the first time it was done, but I really think they have taken on board all the problems.

“It might not cover as many people as we want to cover, but I think they have done the right thing.”

The second phase of the flood defences promises protection for up to 400 properties – as well as the national rugby stadium and Murrayfield Ice Rink – and will focus on housing in Murrayfield and Roseburn Park.

But work is set to be deferred in several areas, and the council is still seeking funding for flood prevention works in the parts of the river linking the first and second stages.

Conservative councillor Jeremy Balfour said: “I think the scheme that we have got now is the best we are going to get for the money that’s available.

“The most important thing is to get on and get it done, so that local residents can have the assurance that what happened before will not happen again.

“Residents always get concerned when a winter has heavy rain and there is a build-up on the river. We should concentrate on what we can do.”

Councillor Lesley Hinds, Transport and Environment Convener, said: “Our number one priority in arriving at the optimal design for Phase Two – and this is something shared by the residents and stakeholders who we’ve consulted very closely with – was to ensure we used the available funding in the best way possible to protect as many properties as we can from the risk of flooding.

“We’ve managed to come up with a scheme that will permanently protect 90 per cent of all residential properties for considerably less money than the original plans.”

The scaled-back proposals will go before the transport and environment committee on Tuesday.