Falkirk Council: UK government be asked for cash to allow flood prevention scheme to go ahead
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But there is no agreement on how the project will be funded and members of Falkirk Council’s executive were told yesterday (Tuesday) that “critical decisions need to be taken” if it is to stay on track.
Head of Invest Falkirk, Paul Kettrick, told councillors that the intention is still to go to the next stage – formally notifying affected landowners – but he warned that do so, funding will need to be secured.
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.
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 and the Grangemouth scheme is now being considered separately to others in Scotland.
The council leader, Cecil Meiklejohn, said a huge amount of work has already been done and they had hoped to have an update from the Scottish Government very soon.
She said: “It’s important that we do have engagement with Scottish Government due to the size and the magnitude of the scheme and the wide ranging benefits not just to the Falkirk area but the national economy of the whole of the UK.”
She added that the “once in 200 years” flooding that has been predicted is now overdue – “therefore it’s important that we seek to get a resolution”.
Grangemouth and surrounding areas are particularly at risk of flooding from three local rivers as well as coastal flood risk from the Forth Estuary.
Grangemouth councillor Robert Spears said that this was the “big issue” in the town and even recent revelations about the Petroineos refinery “pales into insignificance if our town is flooded”.
“It affects everywhere from Blackness to South Alloa,” he said. “We know the flooding is coming so we need to protect the people that are here.
“Time and tide waits for no man and the longer we do not go ahead with this, the worse it will be.”
But with no progress so far on funding, councillors are now being warned that it may become necessary to scale down the project, work in phases or revise time scales.
Conservative councillor James Bundy said his group supported the scheme but was concerned that “the maths don’t add up”.
“We cannot just continue to go ahead without the finances in place.
“I know this might sound weird coming from the Conservative benches but the UK Government should be involved in this. This is a UK-wide national infrastructure project.”
Mrs Meiklejohn agreed that although it is a devolved matter she had “no difficulty making representations to the UK government, recognising this is a piece of national infrastructure”.
It was agreed a further report will come to the council’s executive early in 2024 seeking authorisation to either start the next stage, or to change the scope of the project.