Comhairle to apply for funding to reduce flood risk in South Ford area

Following recent decisions by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and the outcomes of a recent public meeting held in South Uist, progress is now being made in the delivery of the South Ford Flood Risk Management Scheme and the development of a strategy associated with the making of a representation to Scottish Government seeking support and assistance in the creation of an additional opening in the South Ford Causeway.

Following the storm of January 2005, and as part of its wider Storm Damage Response Programme which saw the reconstruction of major infrastructure across the Western Isles including the provision of a new school at Balivanich, the Comhairle agreed with the Scottish Government to undertake a hydrodynamics study to identify and appraise the very complex tidal and flood risk issues surrounding the South Ford area between Benbecula and South Uist.

The public meeting held at Iochdar Hall heard Iain Mackinnon, the Comhairle’s Director of Technical Services, explain the rationale for and the detail of the scheme which seeks to significantly reduce the risk of flooding in the event of a storm similar to that experienced in 2005.

Mr Mackinnon explained, “The Hydrodynamics Study was published in 2012; however, in the intervening period, the development of such projects, and any application for funding support, must comply with the requirements of the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009. This means that any applications for funding assistance must follow a process which seeks to prioritise such schemes at a national level.”

The key elements of the scheme proposed for South Ford comprise a dune management scheme for the area of shore to the south of Sgoil Lionacleit, the construction of a flood defence embankment south of Lionacleit township and the reconstruction and strengthening of Gualan Island.

“The Hydrodynamics Study presented a number of options, each of which would contribute to a reduction in the likelihood of flooding. The Comhairle agreed in April that this scheme be submitted for consideration by the Government and we remain hopeful that it will be able to attract the necessary funding”.

Mr Mackinnon added, “The Comhairle is also very much aware of the strength of feeling regarding the South Ford causeway and the contribution it made to the flooding in 2005. The Hydrodynamics Study indicates that the existence of the causeway was only one of a number of contributing factors at that time and then goes on to present a number of options, including the creation of a wider opening in the causeway. It is important to note that the Study does not recommend the wider opening as the only option”.

“Taking all of this on board, and in addition to its decision regarding the proposed Flood Risk Management Scheme, the Comhairle agreed that a further but separate representation regarding the creation of a second opening in the causeway be made to Scottish Government on the basis of it being an “exceptional case””.

Mr Mackinnon said “I am very pleased that the meeting agreed with my suggestion of the establishment of a Stakeholders’ Group including representatives from Storas Uibhist, local Grazings Committees, relevant Community Councils and the Iochdar Flood Action Group. The Comhairle will work with this group and take the lead in developing and implementing a strategy to make a representation to Scottish Government. There is no doubt in my mind that adopting a collaborative approach will give our representation a better chance of being positively received”.

“We should not, however, underestimate the scale of the challenge. The current estimated cost of the alterations to the causeway is significant and funding bodies, whether it be the Scottish Government, the Comhairle or any other we may approach, are faced with considerable competing priorities in times of extreme financial pressure”.