Work starts on £11M flood scheme to protect Caol and Lochyside homes

NO F24 Caol flood defences
Caol Primary School pupil Isla Ross and Joan Ling of Caol Community Council helped dig the first turf to mark the beginning of work on the new flood defences which will run along the foreshore and riverside to protect the village. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, The Write Image. NO F24 Caol flood defences

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Crucial work that will provide peace of mind for residents, is how the start of work on the new £11m flood prevention scheme in the Caol and Lochyside areas of Fort William, was described this week.

The works, being carried out by contractor R.J. MacLeod, are projected to last 104 weeks and are in response to severe flooding in the area in the past.

Pupils from Caol Primary School attended the site last week to cut the first piece of turf signalling the start of the works.

The flood in 2005 caused damage to around 20 homes and the sewerage works. The 2005 flood was significant in that it was caused by a large tidal surge in Loch Linnhe.

Caol and Lochyside is one of 42 prioritised flood protection schemes identified in the National Flood Risk Management Strategy for Scotland. It will increase flood protection to over 300 properties in the Caol and Lochyside area.

The scheme has been designed to protect against a 1:200 year storm surge event from Loch Linnhe. The scheme is being funded by the Scottish Government (80 percent) and Highland Council (20 percent).

The scheme was published in April 2018 and received five comments and only one objection during the notification period. An independent hearing was held in March 2019 to consider the objection.

The reporter published his findings in July 2019 and it was decided the scheme should be confirmed without modification. Highland Council confirmed the scheme on 15 August 2019.

The 2km long flood protection scheme consists of 1,200 metres of embankment and 800 metres of flood wall with two flood gates and associated drainage. The flood defence will be constructed between the Caledonian Canal and Soldier’s Bridge in the River Lochy, as well as providing environmental benefits to the wider community.

There will be improved access to the towpath at the Caledonian Canal and improved walking and cycling routes along the length of the scheme.

Caol and Mallaig councillor and chairman of the Housing and Property Committee, Ben Thompson, commented: ‘It is fantastic to see that works are now under way on the Caol and Lochyside Flood Prevention Scheme.

‘This crucial work will provide peace of mind to residents and ensure they are protected from the damaging effects of flooding in the future.

‘The project will also bring extra benefits to the area, such as an increase in cycling and footpath provision, landscaping, planting, seating areas and play facilities which will be a welcome addition to the Caol foreshore.’

The works will have an impact locally and the public is being urged to be patient and follow directions in the area, where necessary.