Funding shortfall puts Capital flood defences at risk

Protection: Sandbags arrive in the Stockbridge colonies
Protection: Sandbags arrive in the Stockbridge colonies
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FLOOD defences along the Water of Leith may have to be dramatically scaled back due to a £42 million funding shortfall.

The estimated cost of defences proposed in the wake of flooding in April 2000 is £144.4m – but just £102.4m has so far been secured.

It was warned that if the plans were scaled back, properties along the waterway would remain at “significant” risk.

The flood defences are being constructed in three phases, with work on phase one – covering the area from Bonnington to Veitch’s Square – now likely to be completed in March 2013 as a result of delays.

Work on phase two, covering Murrayfield/Roseburn to Belford, has yet to commence due to the significant funding shortfall, and as yet a programme of work for phase three – running from Balgreen to Longstone – has still to be drawn up.

The council is set to continue talks with the Scottish Government and local government umbrella body COSLA over the funding shortfall for the second and third phases, after a bid for greater government support in 2011 was unsuccessful.

The exact details of the shortfall will not become clear until at least January next year, due to potential additional costs for phase one.

But officials have now warned that if funding cannot be found to complete phase two then a “reduced scheme” – which could mean scrapping phase three entirely – would have to be considered. This would leave several locations at significant risk of flooding, and could lead to problems for local residents and businesses in getting flood insurance.

The warning came as the council revealed it had deployed more than 1000 sandbags to help stem flooding in the Stockbridge colonies and Warriston earlier this year.

Transport convener Councillor Lesley Hinds said: “While the completed scheme on Braidburn and the finished parts of the Water of Leith are providing protection, other parts of the city continue to be at risk. Recent events have shown again how important it is that we have these defences in place and I very much hope COSLA and the Scottish Government can be persuaded of the Capital’s case.”