Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Will Stonehaven’s Flood Protection Scheme really be finished by summer 2023?

Rachel Kennedy, Aberdeenshire Council's principal engineer for infrastructure services at the mouth of the River Carron. Photograph by Scott Baxter.
Rachel Kennedy, Aberdeenshire Council's principal engineer for infrastructure services at the mouth of the River Carron. Photograph by Scott Baxter.

After almost a decade of effort and many delays, the Stonehaven Flood Protection Scheme will be “pretty much finished” by next summer, a top council engineer has said.

Rachel Kennedy, Aberdeenshire Council’s principal engineer for infrastructure services, was appointed to build flood defences around the River Carron in 2013 after disastrous flooding from the waterway in 2012.

The Carron River in Stonehaven running through people’s gardens in 2012. Photo by Richard Frew

And now, after almost 10 years of taking the scheme from the concept stages all the way through to nearly the end of construction, Rachel is confident it will finally be finished by summer 2023.

There is no doubt the project has caused significant disruption in the lives of residents, but Rachel believes it will have all been for the greater good in the end.

“We’re really pleased to have delivered something that is from my point of view quite outstanding, I think both in an aesthetic way, but also from a safety point of view for the community,” she said.

Rachel Kennedy, Aberdeenshire Council’s principal engineer for infrastructure services. Photo by Scott Baxter

We took a walk around Stonehaven with Rachel to see for ourselves the scale of all of the work that’s been done and find out if it really will be complete by next summer.

The Bridge(s) on the River Carron

As you stroll along the River Carron today, you’ll see a great deal of the protection scheme is practically finished.

Although there have indeed been setbacks along the way, Rachel is proud of how much progress has been made so far, and highlighted the dedication of the teams who worked on the project throughout most of the pandemic.

As she took us through a set of metal flood gates at the end of Arbuthnott Street, we entered onto a path along the south side of the Carron.

A view of the path along the south of the Carron, showing one of the new metal flood gates. Photo by Aberdeenshire Council, March 2022

The extensive new walls, Rachel explained, go far further underground than you may expect, and also incorporate sections of strengthened glass.

The flood protection walls next to the B-listed, art deco Carron to Mumbai restaurant on Cameron Street

The engineer says the project was designed to not only be functional, but aesthetically pleasing as well.

You can be the judge of that, but we can report the local duck population has given it their quack of approval.

A duck taking a waddle along the new flood defences in Stonehaven. Photograph by Scott Baxter

But perhaps the most obvious differences since work began are the bridges.

The new green bridge. Photo by Aberdeenshire Council

The former red and green bridges upriver have been removed and replaced to allow pedestrians and cyclists across the Carron.

Importantly, they’ve kept the same colourful paint jobs which made them landmarks for Stoney residents for years.

Aerial photography of the red bridge in March 2022. Photo by Aberdeenshire Council

And down at the river’s mouth, the beach bridge has been raised and widened.

A view of the new beach bridge in March 2022. Photo by Aberdeenshire Council

Behind the screens on Bridgefield Bridge looking upriver from the Carron fish and chip shop, construction is still very much ongoing, as you can see from the council’s webcam. 

However, what is most conspicuously absent for residents is the river’s more than 140-year-old white bridge.

An aerial view of the Carron. Where the river narrows is where the white bridge used to sit between Cameron Street and Arbuthnott Street. Photo by Aberdeenshire Council, March 2022

The C-listed, cast-iron structure was removed for refurbishment in 2019, and has been sorely missed by locals ever since.

In fact, over Christmas, it was reported someone put up a sign near where it used to be saying “I’m dreaming of a white bridge”.

The White Bridge in Stonehaven being removed in 2019

So, when is the white bridge coming back to Stonehaven?

Rachel expects the grand return of the white bridge to its original place will be at some point in summer 2023.

Once it is officially lowered back to its old spot, linking Arbuthnott Street and Cameron Street, Rachel says it will be the “key milestone” marking the end of the major flood protection works on the Carron.

“I think the public really wants the white bridge back because it’s a very well-used link over to St James’ Church and that side of Stonehaven,” she said.

“There was a lot of work done to refurbish the white bridge, and so when we took it away we stripped all the old paint off.”

The white bridge in 2017. Photograph by Kath Flannery

Rachel said the bridge was in such a poor state of repair that on certain parts of the structure you could “put your hand through it”

She continued: “Once the paint was off, we worked very closely with Historic Environment Scotland to record the historic bits of the bridge, cut out the rotten bits and replace them, and we’ve put a whole new paint treatment on it.”

A close-up of the bridge when it was being removed, showing the sign stating it was built in 1879

Once the new and improved white bridge is returned to its former spot and former glory, Rachel is hopeful for an opening ceremony to celebrate the completion of the flood protection scheme.

Council apologises for disruption and delays

As we strolled along the length of the Carron where Rachel and her team have been focusing their efforts, a disgruntled woman out walking her dog stopped to ask us if we were “taking photos of that shambles”.

There is no doubt that the ongoing works over the years have caused disruption for Stonehaven residents.

Work on the project has come very close to people’s property. Here, work continues on the section upriver from the Carron fish and chip shop. Photo by Aberdeenshire Council, March 2022

Some residents have had their gardens temporarily taken up by construction works, traffic restrictions have been imposed, and footpaths have been shut.

The project has also faced all manner of delays.

As well as the impact of Covid at the start of the pandemic, changes to design and construction phases have also held it back. 

Work was previously planned for completion by late Spring 2021.

“There are frustrations, and for that we can only apologise,” Rachel said.

Rachel Kennedy, Aberdeenshire Council’s principal engineer for infrastructure services, next to one of the very high walls built along the Carron in order to protect the Stonehaven community from flooding. Photo by Scott Baxter

“There’s one certain area that’s in the middle that has been held up by two years.

“People are weary and tired of the scheme.

“They understand the greater good and that the end is in sight, but it has been a struggle for those residents, and for that, Aberdeenshire Council apologises.”

Will the project actually work?

Every time there’s heavy rainfall, Rachel says you can feel a sense of worry in Stoney.

Ahead of forecasted heavy rain, businesses and residents in Stonehaven pop up their on flood defences on their properties. Photo by Paul Glendell, 2020

“It is very anxiety-driven because several people in the scheme have been out of their houses multiple times with flooding, they had metre-high floods in their houses.

“So their blue flood gates go out as soon as there’s a warning.”

Flooding in Stonehaven in October 2012. Photo by Richard Frew

Major flooding events have been recorded in Stonehaven in 1988, 1995, 2001, 2002, 2007, 2009 and 2012, all of which caused damage to local properties and businesses and resulted in residents being evacuated.

But Rachel is confident the new scheme will be able to handle flooding “three to four times the magnitude” of even the most severe flooding previously experienced.

“This would withstand all of that”, she said.

A before-and-after sign at the flood scheme.

She explained the major floods in 2009 and 2012 were considered one-in-50 year and one-in-75 year events.

But the new scheme is “designed to a one-in-200 year event level, plus an allowance for climate change”.

But what does this actually mean?

“One-in-200 doesn’t mean it happens once and won’t happen again for another 200 years,” Rachel explained.

“It means there’s half a percent chance of anything that big happening in any one year.”

The scheme is designed to protect a total of 376 properties.

How much is all of this going to cost?

This bird’s eye view illustrates the scale of the multimillion pound project. Photo by Aberdeenshire Council

The initial tender for the flood protection scheme was £15.8 million.

But the end result is estimated to be much higher.

Earlier this year, figures revealed through parliamentary questions showed cost overrun estimations for flood defence projects across Scotland. 

Those figures say the initial cost was £19.9m, and the estimated final cost will be £27.5m.

We asked Aberdeenshire Council for more details but were told it would “not be appropriate” to comment further at this time.

A spokesman said: “The original submitted tender value for the project was £15.8m.

“Of course, in a project as complex as this one, there is potential for issues to arise or changes to pre-tender assumptions to be made, which can have impacts on the outturn cost.

A view of some of the glass wall defences along the northern side of the Carron. Photo by Scott Baxter.

“The contract has appropriate mechanisms to allow these to be notified by the contractor or the council and the impact of those to be assessed.

“While the contract is ongoing it would not be appropriate for further comment to be made due to commercial sensitivity and contractual requirements.”

So, will it actually be done by summer 2023?

Although there, of course, could be all sorts of further hiccups, Rachel is confident the scheme will indeed be essentially finished by next summer.

At that point, any further work will be finishing touches like planting greenery.

She said: “We’re saying summer 2023.

“One of the last big things to go in is the white bridge, so that will be the key milestone.

“There may still be bits of snagging, depending on what time of year will change how much of the plants we can reinstate and things like that.

Rachel at the River Carron flowing under the new green bridge.

“But I’d like to say that by summer 2023, we’ll be pretty much finished.”

After dedicating almost a decade of her life to the scheme, Rachel is proud of what she and the team have achieved.

She said: “The feedback we generally seem to be getting from the public is that it’s quite nice.

“When you say you’re going to build walls that are a metre and a half high, you think ‘Gosh that’s going to be horrendous… it’s going to be concrete everywhere, it’s going to be sterile and clinical’.

Rachel says she’s proud of the aesthetics of the project. Photo by Scott Baxter

“And I think it’s anything but.

“There’s been so much investment in putting granite facing and sandstone copes on the wall, even the stainless steel railings — there’s been a lot of nice aesthetics gone into this project.”

We asked Rachel if the opening ceremony would involve smashing a bottle of bubbly off the long-missed white bridge.

“Champagne is too good to waste”, Rachel laughed.

You can watch a drone flyover of the scheme by Aberdeenshire council, comparing how it looked in November 2021 with March 2020:

 

You may also like to read:

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]

Conversation

[[title_reg]]

Please enter the name you would like to appear on your comments. (It doesn’t have to be your real name - but nothing rude please, we are a polite bunch!) Use a combination of eight or more characters that includes an upper and lower case character, and a number.

By registering with [[site_name]] you agree to our Terms and Conditions and our Privacy Policy

Or sign up with

Facebook Google

[[content_reg_complete]]

[[title_login]]

Or login with

Forgotten your password? Reset it

[[title]]