Extend The Brachans

By Jane Cruickshank / November 19, 2019
stainless steel sculpture of light house looking across bay

Adding to the rocks protecting the bay should be the first approach before a wall

COUNCILLORS today gave their go-ahead for coastal defence measures that may include raising our sea walls – but only after offshore methods are used first.

Our representatives were clearly in a dilemma: the Scottish Government has money available now and Aberdeenshire must make its bid by December this year. But they were clearly not convinced raising sea walls was the right approach.

Graeme McCallum of the Aberdeenshire Flood Protection team assured the committee the proposals were indicative only. If funding were achieved – and there are no guarantees the money will be forthcoming – then the details of the design would be looked at in a process that would include further public consultation.

‘’All heights can be optimized, he said. ”This is the beginning of the process.

”The preferred option is a starting point for any future work. In the future the design will be optimized with the aim of maximizing the beach.”

Fears Of Ceding the Principal

But events at the River Carron have clearly made our councillors wary and they looked for reassurance on this matter.

Councillor Sarah Dickinson said: ”Inevitably there is a fear that if you just run with the preferred option to get our feet in the door, then you have conceded the principal of the height of the wall.

”Is that what we would be doing, would we be ceding an important principal?”

Alan Turner of Stonehaven Flood Action Group, SFAG, was allowed to make a five-minute presentation. He told the committee a raised promenade path would bring a loss of privacy, increased noise, and have effects on property values. He said of 110 residents deemed to be affected, some 106 representations were made in opposition to the proposals.

Mr Turner said he was unhappy with the lack of simulations using raised shingle heights.

”You have a costed approach for a wall built all the way. We want to look at extending the Brachans.” he said.

”Fix it further back,” he added.

The Do Nothing Approach

The timetable being imposed on the consultation was criticised by Councillor Pike.

He said: ”We as a committee are being railroaded. I have a fear that we are just fulfilling a requirement to get on the SEPA budget. But we are never gong to out-wit nature.”

Declaring he was a a hydrographic surveyor by profession, he said Aberdeenshire Council were being ‘shoehorned’ into a project with open-ended costs that would not resolve the problem.

”It doesn’t matter how high you build it, you will never stop water coming over the wall.”

And Cllr Sandy Wallace, who early on in the discussions said he had heard enough and had reached his conclusion, moved the first resolution.

”Let’s just cut to the chase. I recommend no action taken. That is not to say no action will ever need to be taken.

”Action now precludes further action down the line. If you get it wrong, you get it wrong for good.’’

A Guarded Acceptance

Cllr Ian Mollison reflected on increasing sea levels and the options the committee faced.

”We have a problem here, the sea is going to rise by two feet five inches in 100 years. We have a choice at this time of doing nothing.

”Houses will flood but we have taken a decision to live with it. Or there is an opportunity to ge some funding and do something to protect our homes and businesses and property.”

He said taking forward the options together with the liberty to design the scheme seemed a ‘no brainer’.

The member for North Kincardine added: ”It is not acceptable to have a known problem and do nothing to protect the people of Stoneahven and visitors.”

He too sought, and received, reassurance there would be opportunity further down the line for people to putforward their comments and to influence the sea defence design.

Finding the Right Words

There were moves and counter moves as the members tried to find some resolution that could be put into words – and agreed.

Ms Dickinson said: ” A lot has been said, so to reduce all to a few blunt points is troubling.”

In the end, a ten-minute break was agreed to allow her composition of just that.

And the amendment to the motion that won the majority was: ”The Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee support taking action to address the flood risk in Stonehaven to achieve a 1/200-year flood protection level.

”This action recognises the potential need for an increase in sea wall height as a result of projected sea level increases.

”However, the committee asks that all defences at sea are maximised in order to ensure that the sea wall height is optimised at the lowest achievable level such that the promenade need not be raised.”

Cllr Agnew who had favoured implementing groynes and fishtails did not vote. Cllrs Pike and Wallace voted for the motion to take no action.

Lighthouse image courtesy of Martin Sim