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Golspie folk urged to support flood action group

By SPP Reporter

Taking action: Ian Melville, left, and Bert Gibson.
Taking action: Ian Melville, left, and Bert Gibson.

A COMMUNITY action group is being formed in a bid to tackle the coastal flooding that has devastated the seafront area of Golspie in recent years.

Local residents Ian Melville and Bert Gibson, who are spearheading the group, are appealing to community members to give their support.

An initial meeting was held on 14th January attended by around 40 people and another meeting is to be held next week.

Mr Melville, a sub sea engineer and Mr Gibson, a retired construction manager, are among some 36 householders and eight business people on Main Street whose properties back onto the sea front and are most at risk of flooding

The pair claim protection measures put in place at Golspie by Highland Council are inadequate and misguided.

They have been researching multi-million pound measures that have proved successful elsewhere and would have the added benefit of creating maritime leisure opportunities.

Paul Hendy, director of the government funded Scottish Flood Forum, is advising the men and will be at next week’s meeting.

The village suffered two devastating floods in 2012 and 2014. On both occasions there was extensive damage particularly to Golspie Golf Club, caravan site and kart track.

Mr Melville said the storm last October saw waves lashing as high as the top of the street light on the promenade at the end of his garden.

"It was scary – my whole house was shaking," he said.

He believes flooding has increased in severity partly because an existing breakwater and groins, which trap sand and shingle, have not been maintained.

Work undertaken by Highland Council 15 years ago to fill in channels in the breakwater and build a bolster wall at the north end of the beach, have led to a build-up of thousands of tons of sand, raising the beach by 3ft and exacerbating the situation, it is claimed.

Mr Melville said it was significant that the area of seafront with a shingle beach, between the shore car park and the Free Church, did not flood. He said shingle absorbed the wave power.

He and Mr Gibson are critical of the authority’s response to the flooding at South Beach, where the golf club, kart track and caravan site are located.

Mr Gibson said: "The council have put tons of rock armour stretching from below the Free Church all the way to the caravan park. Rock armour is dangerous in that it is a trip hazard, a haven for rats and limits access to the beach.

"It is also not serving any purpose. Waves are coming in at about 45 degrees to the golf course, overtopping and getting in behind the rock armour, which is deflecting the waves up and onto the golf course. The rock armour is acting like a ski jump."

Mr Gibson claimed the authority had spent considerable sums on protecting South Beach but had done little to the sea front at Main Street.

He said: "Everything is damaged and nothing is getting repaired. The condition of the sea wall is a disgrace and at one point it had been undermined so much that it is in danger of collapsing.

"There are 30 or so trip hazards on

the walk way at the pier with concrete sticking up as much as six inches in places."

The two men have been studying a £20 million coastal defence scheme established at Sea Palling, a village in Norfolk. The scheme consists of nine offshore reefs along with stub groins that have stabilised beach levels and dissipated wave energy.

Mr Melville said: "A scheme like this in Golspie would not only provide a coastal defences but would also form safe lagoons which would be of benefit to local groups such as the rowing and sailing clubs."

He pointed out that it had been announced last month that a £20 million flood protection scheme was to go ahead in Stonehaven.

The action group’s first task will be to create a website and to source funds for a survey and technical report.

Mr Hendy told The Northern Times: "We are delighted that Golspie is pulling together a community group to look at the issue of flooding.

"There is not going to be a magic solution and serious funding will be required. We also recognise this is going to be a collaborative effort between the group. Highland Council and other local organisations to come up with the most cost effective and practical solution."

East Sutherland and Edderton ward councillor Graham Phillips chairs a working group looking at flooding and coastal erosion in the Golspie Links area.

He said: "I would be very happy to meet with their group, to see if we can bring experts together and compare evidence.

"Any capital sums provided by the Scottish Government will be under the auspices of the Flood Risk Management Act. Golspie is identified as a vulnerable area under the Act, and SEPA is currently framing proposals for flood protection.

"I urge this new group to make representations now, so they can be considered officially. There is little likelihood of government money if they don’t join in with a process which is actively seeking input."

Councillor Phillips added: "There is no intention to remove the rock armour although there are concerns about the quality of repairs done in 2013. These are currently being independently assessed by consulting engineers. We could look at access to the beach as part of any action to correct the repairs."

The meeting takes place at 7.30pm on Wednesday 27th May at the Caberfeidh Hotel, Golspie.

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