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Oban needs a final fix to stop Lochavullin car park and surrounding area reverting to a loch when the threat of flooding strikes.
Torrential rain that started on Sunday afternoon combined with high tides to overwhelm pumps meant to keep floodwaters down, leaving the town centre car park and roads leading to businesses, including two major supermarkets, underwater and a no-go zone.
Argyll and Bute Council told The Oban Times that the pumps, not checked until 8.30am on Monday, had already kicked in automatically as intended and were ‘indeed working’.
But the council spokesperson said they could only ‘cope with reasonable quantities of water’ adding the volume experienced, as forecast, combined with high tides was ‘exceptional’.
A series of short-term fixes – servicing and renewing the pumps and control cabinet in the car park – were carried out after the system failed during rapidly rising floods in October 2018, when the electrics cut out. Temporary flood barriers were also installed along a short stretch of the Black Lynn burn afterwards and some of the drainage and combined sewer pipes in the area were also to be cleaned.
Money was previously secured from the Scottish Government to carry out a feasibility study and consultation to come up with a long-term plan for that area but the plan is ‘still sitting on a shelf’, with no money available as yet to make it a reality.
Councillor Roddy McCuish said: ‘We got the money for the feasibility study and consultation but we never got the money to do it. That plan is sitting on a shelf while Lochavullin floods again and our businesses and lives are affected. It’s just not acceptable. We must now lobby the Scottish Government as hard as possible to get a long-term solution to this problem as quickly as possible. Like other local authorities we are cash-strapped so we need help to sort this once and for all.’
Councillor Kieron Green joined the call for long-term solution funding.
He said: ‘I would obviously be delighted if funding could be made available from the Scottish Government for a long-term solution but it would have to involve options people would be happy with.’
Mill Street business Hire & Supplies Ltd, flooded out for the second time in just over two years this week, also wants a permanent fix to keep rising waters away. The business’s Mary-Ann Murray said: ‘The whole of the Lochavullin car park was gone on Monday morning, it was just a sea. The water was seeping into our businesses from all sides.
‘The high part of the yard was okay but the water has gone right through our workshop and the back of the store. We won’t know how much damage has been done or how much it will cost us until everything has dried out. We have no insurance, after the last big flood in 2018 no insurers would touch us because this is such a high-risk area. We are heartbroken – again!
BID4Oban chief executive Andrew Spence backed Councillor McCuish’s call for government funding for a resolution.
‘We are told these floods are once in 100 years occurrences but we’ve had two major floods in the last two years. We are in a situation where we need positive actions and solutions now. We can’t have businesses being flooded out and disrupted, being unable to get insurance, and we can’t have people unable to access supermarkets.’
Councillor Elaine Robertson said the Lochavullin pumps had been working ‘to full capacity’ and the relevant council department was now ‘investigating any other possible causes and remedies’.
She added: ‘The flooding across the town was exceptional and most distressing to those affected. With the weather pattern changing this issue has to be addressed as a priority at both a local level and by the Scottish Government.’
Councillor Jim Lynch said with climate change an issue ‘how near are we to things like this happening more regularly. ‘Being on the coast we are going to get it more. It’s clear any defences we have at the moment aren’t coping, we need to build up those defences and need to get help from the Scottish Government to do that,’ he said.