Calls for greater Cullipool flood protection

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Island residents are calling in experts to help save their shore after Storm Aiden robbed it of more than 10ft.

Flood protection to keep Cullipool safe from future storm surges is more urgent than ever before, say worried residents after Luing was battered by powerful tides and huge waves that crashed inland, flooding some homes closest to the beach and destroying property.

Part of the coastline disappeared – dark water dredged the black sand and slate waste from the beach swept its way onto roads through the vulnerable village.

Some of the devastation left by Storm Aiden.

As well as devastation at the front of the white-washed village, water flowed like a river at the back of Cullipool, with some places two-foot under water.

The storm spurred a massive mop up mission with villagers helping one another clear the debris, but the event over Hallowe’en weekend has heightened calls and the urgency for better sea defences.

In February this year, islanders were invited to a public meeting to discuss coastal erosion and gauge peoples’ thoughts and concerns. Colin Buchanan, whose home took the brunt of the storm with walls of water as high as 30ft to 40ft breaking against it, was tasked with pulling in expert advice on the best way to safeguard the disappearing coastline.

Not much has been left of earlier sea defences at Culipool, said Mr Buchanan, who had already linked up with Dynamic Coast Scotland before the latest storm and will be meeting with experts coming to the island soon.

‘We will be seeking the best advice possible to see what can and what must be done to protect our coastline in a way that will be sustainable. If we do nothing, in a couple of years we will have lost even more shoreline. We must’ve lost between 10 to 15ft of it in Storm Aiden – it’s just gone.

‘We are looking for funding but we will need to have a detailed plan first,’ said Mr Buchanan.

February’s meeting was co-organised by the community council with Luing Community Trust to explore whether an action group was needed to look at ways of keeping the island safe from future storms and flooding.

In the past, big boulders were placed along part of the front of Cullipool village as part of a community-funded defence system, with the help of Argyll and Bute Council.

Although those defences had mostly still been holding strong – there had been reported signs of possible coastal erosion near the south corner of the settlement, close to old steps leading down to the beach.

Resident and Luing Stores owner Norman Bissell said he believed Storm Aiden had been the worst in living memory on Luing.

‘Our flood defences were overwhelmed. We were lucky no one was injured. If you doubt there’s a climate emergency which has serious consequences for coastal communities, here was the evidence. It’s a worry for the future,’ he said.