Flood scheme for Oban? 2031 at the earliest

Flooding at Oban's Lochavullin Industrial Estate and Mill Lane area NO_T41_Oban floods Sunday_06_Marian Malarvie

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Even if immediate funding and resources were available to fix Oban’s flood woes, it could still take five or six more years to start ground work, a council email has revealed.

The official email also said the flood pumps at Lochavullin car park were “beyond repair”.

Hire & Supplies Ltd owner David Chandler, whose Mill Lane business was just one of many in the area left counting costs running into hundreds of thousands of pounds from the October floods aftermath, claims the council has breached its responsibility to firms who rent its land and has accused it of “gross negligence”.

Mr Chandler is considering a claim for damages against the council.

Meanwhile a group of Lochavullin-area traders is building in size behind Mr Chandler to keep putting pressure on decision-makers at council level and politicians.

Mr Chandler said: “We are not going to go away until this is resolved. Businesses in this area are an integral part of the local area. The facilities we offer are required by the Oban community. We have to safeguard ourselves. We’ve battled our way through Covid and will battle our way through this.”

Mr Chandler has also written to Tesco bosses to get them on side and lend support.

He told The Oban Times that information in the council’s email to him “told me the pumps at Lochavullin were not working” when waters rose in October and that “they had no infrastructure in place. So, that’s gross negligence. They should be ashamed.

“We know there was a rumour five years ago when there were floods that those pumps had failed. Have they been left like that since then?

“The cost of repairing or replacing those pumps will be pennies compared to the hideous costs we are counting after the last flood,” he said.

And he added: “The council needs to have a planned safety net. It can’t just be reactive when the worst happens. Given what the email says, even if there was no funding until next year it would still be 2031 before any ground work on a flood prevention scheme could start. Is that really fair?”

Flood prevention barriers put up along the Black Lynn at the back of the Scout hut after the 2018 floods were not weighted down earlier this week when the Scottish Environment Protection Agency issued a flood warning for the town.

The council email that Mr Chandler received said, in regard to flood matters and the council’s responsibilities as defined in the Flood Risk Management act 2009, that “Oban’s Flood Study was carried out in 2019 and will be used to inform any future flood protection scheme works, however this will need to be reviewed once any funding is confirmed to consider climate change and SEPA requirements, as well as a review of estimated costs.

“Oban Flood Scheme was estimated in the order of millions of pounds. Please also note that should funds and resources be available immediately, this could only start on the  ground in 5 /6 years. Meanwhile, we are working on the Lochavullin car park pumping system with a view to replace the pumps as these are beyond repair.”

The email added: “We are not aware of any UK Government or Scottish Government fund to assist in recovering any losses, other than perhaps a £500 grant reported in the media last week.”

Despite the above email, a council spokesperson told us that the pumping systems worked throughout the heavy rain event on October 6 and October 7 “but were exceeded by the sheer volume of water. We have already put in an additional pump and repaired one of the original pumps, which was damaged by the extreme weather. To reduce the risk of flooding further, we are also progressing with the relocation of the control cabinet and replacement of the pumps.”

The spokesperson said SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency) leads the development and construction of Flood Protection Schemes and the council has included Oban within the list of future, potential flood protection schemes put forward to the Scottish Government for the next cycles of schemes, currently anticipated to run from 2026-35. It will apply for funding when bids open.

BID4Oban is urging its levy payers to feedback to Argyll and Bute Council how they were affected so enough information can be collected to get a working solution.

Oban South councillor Jim Lynch said he supported businesses and that in the first instance a round-table meeting between them and the council was vital to sort out a short-term solution and what could be done in the long-term.

He also said: “We need to find out what’s exacerbating the flooding in this area. I know people says it’s built on a loch but we need to get to the bottom of the cause.”

Councillor Lynch added there needed to be a direct approach to the Scottish Government because of the impact flooding has on the town and area’s economy.

Fellow Oban South councillor Amanda Hampsey pledge to continue to pursue the Scottish Government for the funding. ” I will, of course, be pushing this particular issue, which appears very serious indeed and requires attention that brings resolve.”

Jenni Minto MSP said there needs to be work done, particularly in places like Oban where a clear ongoing risk  has been identified, to find solutions.

“I have written to Argyll & Bute Council to ask what is being done and what support may be available for businesses affected as this issue has been brought to me previously, however I will also write to the Scottish Government for clarity on what is being done nationally,” she said.

The Oban Times also spoke to one man whose home backs on to the Black Lynn. In October he was flooded for the seventh time. He and his wife had to be carried out of their property by the Fire & Rescue Service after it was swamped by 2.5ft of water that “flowed over the top of the burn like Niagra Falls”.

Despite pleas for help to Argyll and Bute Council, including to dredge the Black Lynn, the man said they had all fallen on deaf ears.

“I can’t sell the house or rent it. We’re stuck here. If I took a tanker of water and emptied it through the doors of the municipal buildings they’d put me in jail. What happens to the council for failing to help? Nothing. They just go home and sit in their safe, dry homes while me and my wife panic every time it rains.

“Saying it could be 2031 at the earliest before they start proper work on flood defences is disgusting.”


Caption: Flooding at Oban’s Lochavullin Industrial Estate and Mill Lane area
NO_T41_Oban floods Sunday_06_Marian Malarvie