Falkirk Council: Fears for future of vital Grangemouth flood defence scheme

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Crucial funding for Scotland’s largest and most high priority flood defence scheme has still not been agreed, just months away from the next stage.

A report going to Falkirk Council’s executive next Tuesday now says that “critical decisions need to be taken” if the Grangemouth Flood Protection scheme is to stay on track.

The council wrote to the Scottish Government last year, to say it could not afford its share of a project that it is now estimated will cost between £450 million and £672 million.

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When the scheme was first agreed, local authorities were expected to pay 20 per cent of the cost while the Scottish Government picked up the other 80 per cent.

The flood defence scheme is Scotland's largest. Pic: ContributedThe flood defence scheme is Scotland's largest. Pic: Contributed
The flood defence scheme is Scotland's largest. Pic: Contributed

But as the costs have become clearer, it is apparent that even 20 per cent – which could be as high as £134 million – is unaffordable for the council.

Falkirk Council officers have made their case that the area is crucial to Scottish infrastructure, containing a major port and oil refinery and other industries, and any flooding “could be devastating for the local and national economy”.

Grangemouth and surrounding areas are particularly at risk of flooding from three local rivers as well as coastal flood risk from the Forth Estuary, which could affect 2650 residential homes and 330 commercial properties.

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And with climate change bringing more frequent heavy rainfall events and threatening higher sea levels, any flood risk will become more evident and more common.

But the report also states that despite engaging with the Scottish Government on funding, there has been “limited progress”.

It says that a project team has continued to work on an outline design and the intention is to start the next stage – formally notifying affected landowners – in March.

But with no word on funding, councillors are now being warned that it may become necessary to scale down the project, work in phases or revise timescales.

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If changes are not made, any delay could increase the cost further by as much as ten per cent for every year.

And that could mean that the work done so far, at a cost of around £21 million, would be out of date and no longer useful.

So far, the council has contributed £3 million to the project and they are aware that the scheme notification stage could throw up legal challenges and objections that could also cause delays.

The report says that the Scottish Government “have recently reiterated their commitment to work with the council and recently undertook an independent assurance review”.

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But there is still a long way to go before any work will be seen in the local area.

The scheme notification stage is likely to take at least a year and challenges and objections could take even longer.

After that the detailed design and procurement could begin, but construction work is unlikely to happen before 2026/27 at the earliest.

The full construction period could last for up to ten years with completion not anticipated until the mid-2030s.

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The report recommends that the council works with the Scottish Government to seek a resolution by mid-December.

If this is not achieved, the council will start to lobby both Scottish and UK Governments as well organisations such as CoSLA and businesses among others.