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Scottish Water forced to alter controversial sewer route near north village

Ardersier campaigners take their fight to council HQ.
Ardersier campaigners take their fight to council HQ.

Scottish Water has been forced to alter its plans for a controversial sewer upgrade which sparked a wave of protests from Highland residents and Dame Helen Mirren.

The £11million sewage plant expansion in Ardersier was bitterly opposed by many in the village and outwith, with more than 2,000 people signing a petition against the scheme last year.

They raised concerns about the impact on the local environment and their quality of life, and claimed there was insufficient consultation when it was first discussed.

Dame Helen – who married her husband Taylor Hackford at Ardersier Parish Church on Hogmanay in 1997 – reacted with “horror” to the proposals, and the Hollywood actress backed the campaign.

Scottish Water said the upgrade was needed to accommodate a growing population in the area, including from the developing Tornagrain new town.

Work on the scheme, which includes a new sewer, extended outflow into the Moray Firth and expanded treatment plant in the village, is well under way.

But Scottish Water has now informed Highland Council that for “operational reasons” it needs to change part of the pipeline route.

In asking the local authority for a “screening opinion”, which decides whether projects require an environmental impact assessment (EIA), the utility said a break pressure chamber “requires repositioning approximately 15m (50ft) west from the original location”.

It said this would require approximately 885ft of the new gravity sewer between the chamber and the treatment plant, and approximately 164ft of the new rising main feeding into the chamber.

The documents add that the new route is “wholly contained within the same field parcel and land ownership and following the existing route corridor with no additional impact on environmental designations”.

However, the utility admitted that the new location for the brake pressure chamber is nearer to two badger sets which are protected under UK law, and that it was applying to Scottish Natural Heritage to amend its licence as a result.

A Scottish Water spokesman said: “Following site investigation work, we identified the need for a minor change to the location of an underground chamber which is needed between the main pipeline and the waste water treatment works at Ardersier.

“The new site is on the same land and within the same field boundary as the one previously proposed.

“In light of the minor change of design, we are required to give notice to Highland Council and to obtain a new screening opinion for this element of the work.”

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