Uist community call for re-think on £20million causeway plan

The local community want to see a larger scale project on the South Ford Causeway.
The local community want to see a larger scale project on the South Ford Causeway.

The community of Uist are demanding a re-think on plans for flood risk measures in vulnerable areas of Benbecula and South Uist.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Comhairle’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee councillors agreed with the recommendation to progress a £2million project of measures rather than a £20million engineering project which would see a bridge element created on the South Ford Causeway.

The bridge element is strongly supported by the local community.

The plan to progress the £2million project to rebuild the dune on the south coast of Benbecula; construct an embankment to reduce likelihood of flooding at Lionacleit: and to strengthen Gualan Island spit to provide better protection for the South Ford Causewayhas not received favour with the local community.

Councillor Donnie Steele said: “The community are up in arms about the decision. Gualan Island is not the best option. We will be wasting more money in the future to replace it again.”

He said it was hoped that support would be available from the Scottish Government.

He added: “They are gambling with people’s lives by not listening to local knowledge.”

Speaking at the meeting on Tuesday, Iain Mackinnon, Director of Technical Services at the Comhairle presented a report on the flood prevention measures for the vulnerable areas with costings.

He said it was ‘nigh on impossible to eliminate risk of flooding but as much as possible to reduce the risk and manage them thereafter.’

He explained that following the devastating storm in January 2005, six coastal protection schemes were identified, with four now complete, a fifth in progress and the sixth being the South Ford Flood Prevention Scheme.

Funding was not available at that time for this particular project but since then much work, including a hydrodynamicsStudy, has been carried out.

Mr Mackinnon pointed out that in order for a scheme to be eligible for financial assistance it had to had to undergo cost benefit analysis of flood risk reduction measures.

“It is Important to remember about the need for there to be a cost benefit of greater than one - less than one cannot get funding from Scottish Government.”

The option involving the bridge construction scores only 0.9 and is therefore not eligible for funding.

A deadline of next month is now looming for the Comhairle to express interest in obtaining funding for a scheme.

The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee recommended that the £2million scheme be adopted as the in-principle proposal for the South Ford Flood Risk Management Scheme and that the Director be authorised to appoint external consultants to take the project to the design stage.

The community are urging a u-turn of this decision and there have been calls for a Fatal Accident Inquiry to look in detail at the 2005 tragedy on the causeway.