Water of Leith flood works ‘over-engineered’

It has been claimed that flood works at Stockbridge and Canonmills were over-engineered. Picture: Kate Chandler
It has been claimed that flood works at Stockbridge and Canonmills were over-engineered. Picture: Kate Chandler
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BOTCHED flood works along the Water of Leith – which saw costs almost double to £30 million – are to go under the microscope before the remaining stages of the project get under way.

A review of the mismanaged scheme will be launched amid allegations the first phase in Stockbridge and Canonmills was “over-engineered” after the price tag soared from £18m to £30m and claims contractual disputes, similar to those blighting Edinburgh’s tramline, also led over-spending.

The specialist Governance, Risk and Best Value (GRBV) committee will probe what went wrong with the project to ensure lessons are learned for future stages.

It comes months after the troubleshooter who helped steer the tram project back on track was parachuted in to rescue the flood prevention scheme.

Chartered engineer Rob Leech was poached by council chiefs to oversee the proposed £25m flood prevention works due to take place in the west of the city.

Weekly meetings will now be held to ensure later stages of the project – to protect Murrayfield and Roseburn – are managed effectively and within budget.

A damning report into the Water of Leith flood prevention works is set to be heard in private by council chiefs on Thursday.

It is understood the city must plug a £6m black hole in finances to begin the second phase of the project, which will now be fitted with scaled-back defences because of the budget-bursting early stages.

Green councillor Nigel Bagshaw said the “mishandled” project had a “lower profile” than the trams and property repairs fiascos but followed the “same pattern”.

He said: “I’ve said for years now that the work in phase one around Stockbridge was over-engineered with the result that there is a gaping budget hole for phase two works in the Murrayfield area. And phase three is simply a far-off dream.

“So it is not just about how the project is overseen. It is also about looking at other more natural solutions rather than grasping at the highest-specification, heavily-engineered option.”

Echoing these views, Cllr Jason Rust of the Edinburgh Conservatives, said further scrutiny of the project was “right” and that overspends were “not acceptable”.

He said: “Given the recent economic climate it is even more incumbent upon the administration to get a handle on the situation.”

Cllr Jeremy Balfour said the committee will play a vital part in ensuring the next phases of the project were delivered on time and in line with project plans.

He said: “It is our priority to make sure lessons have been learned from the first phase of the project, and that these are acted upon. By providing an independent oversight of the scheme, we want to reassure all residents affected that we are doing everything we can to keep it on track.”