Councillors have approved the estimated £14-16million cost of Stonehaven’s large-scale flood alleviation scheme.
Designs for the preferred scheme are still being finalised, but defence walls will be installed along the River Carron to protect homes and businesses.
Yesterday, members of Aberdeenshire Council’s policy and resources committee backed the estimated cost of the project, and heard that in a “fair wind” the contract could be confirmed early next year, with work starting shortly thereafter.
Councillors acknowledged the importance of the scheme for the town, which has been devastated by flooding twice in recent years, but said it was a “huge” cost for the authority to bear alone.
Director of infrastructure services Stephen Archer told the committee: “We have a timescale, and with a fair wind the process will be confirmed early in 2015, allowing work to start later in the year.
“The cost is potentially £14-16million. In relation to flooding schemes nationally it’s not a huge amount, but in Aberdeenshire that’s a large pocket of money.
“It is a priority scheme, but it doesn’t leave a lot of coffers in the tin for other flooding schemes if the need comes forward.
“We need to do the right thing, but we are aware of the significant costs.”
Councillor Jill Webster said: “It’s absolutely necessary that this work is done for the people of Stonehaven, it’s really dreadful to see what has happened in the past.
“The council is committed to doing this, but it’s a huge amount of money.”
The cost of the project will come out the authority’s £21.5million harbours, coast protection and flooding budget. However, the pot also has to cover a similar scheme at Huntly, and other works on harbours around the north-east.
Mr Archer said committee it had been hoped the authority could secure support from the Scottish Government, but all such funding from the general capital grant has already been committed elsewhere.
The council is now in talks with Cosla to ensure if there is any underspend from the grants, the Stonehaven scheme is considered. Otherwise, it is likely the council will have to cover the full cost itself.
The authority may also have another hurdle to clear – as any objections to the scheme could result in a public inquiry, which would knock the timetable back at least nine months.
Once the work is underway, it is expected construction will take between 18-24 months.