Oban must plan for future flooding, warns MSP

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Urgent action is needed to avoid the kind of floods that caused havoc in Oban last week, says Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell.

He has blamed flooding in the town on ‘more and more concrete and Tarmac’ being laid ‘in flood-prone areas’ over the years and says as the weather gets worse with climate change, more will need to be done to cope.

‘There is no doubt that the weather is getting worse. There are more high intensity events, such as very heavy rain storms and periods of high winds and that means that infrastructure built in another age – even one as recently as 30 years ago – may have difficulty in coping from time to time.

‘That was clear in Oban where the flooding last week was not only the result of heavy rain and high tides but also because over the years more and more concrete and Tarmac has been laid in flood-prone areas, which means that the ability of the ground to absorb water is restricted,’ he told The Oban Times.

Mr Russell also warned there needed to be planning for the future as well as coping with the present and that means not building or developing in areas where future flooding may occur.

As a major mopping up exercise got under way, Argyll and Bute Council said lessons had been learned from the floods that shut roads and swamped vehicles around Lochavullin.

As many small portable pumps as were available for hire in the town were used to pump out the area  and the council had to procure larger portable pumps from further afield to provide a higher volume back-up to the permanent pumping system.

A spokesperson for the council said: ‘What we have learned over the past few days will help us as we look at what we can do for future flood alleviation. There is no obvious solution, given the coastal location and low-lying land.’

Trade took a hit when the waters rose as shoppers battened down the hatches and stayed at home.

The new Marks and Spencer Foodhall managed to stay open during the worst of the floods but shut two hours early on the Tuesday night so staff could get home safely. Deliveries managed to still get through, said store manager Stuart Mackinnon.

Tesco stayed open too. Shoppers who did venture in by car on the Wednesday to stock up on groceries headed to Aldi and Lidl, vying for spaces with reports of double parking, parking on pedestrian routes and hovering with engines running to get a slot.

BID4Oban chief executive Andrew Spence was relieved to see the town getting back to normal and told The Oban Times: ‘The main businesses affected have been those on the Oban retail park but it was good to see many stayed open.

‘No problems were reported from the hotels.

‘The town was quiet but people just battened down the hatches and stayed at home.’

While no flood-related injuries were reported to The Oban Times, reader Stephen Jones from Mill Park was in touch to say he had seen a young girl being pulled out of the Black Lynn over the chain fence behind the Guides hut at about 4.15pm on Thursday October 11.

‘The fence here is low and possibly requires extending further up towards the council yard at Mill Park to prevent entry into what can be an extremely dangerous higher level and fast-flowing stream at times of flooding with the high tides and is an area to be avoided and not to be played in!’

Dangers brought on by the floods were not limited to the town.

In rural areas, farmers had to move animals to safety on higher ground after flooding made fields ‘useless’, said Scammadale Glen farmer Angus MacFadyen.

Mr MacFadyen, who is chairman of NFU Scotland’s environment and land use committee, said animals ‘just don’t thrive’ in those conditions and the wet can increase the probability of fluke, a parasitic disease.

Despite the Met Office issuing more yellow weather warnings for rain and wind over Friday and Saturday, the weekend passed without any further drama.

The spokesperson for Argyll and Bute Council added: ‘Fortunately, the weather over the weekend was not as bad as anticipated. We will take steps to limit the risk of flood damage in Lochavullin and Millpark Footpath over the next week or so. Moving forward, we will investigate longer-term measures, which includes working with partners like Scottish Water.’