Campaigners blame ‘bureaucracy’ for length of wait to ease landslip concerns in Moray

Rob Barsby, chairman of Portknockie's Flood Action Group.
Rob Barsby, chairman of Portknockie's Flood Action Group.

Campaigners in Moray fighting to protect their village from future landslips have blamed “bureaucracy” for the wait for action to safeguard their homes.

Moray Council has now begun the search for contractors to carry out work to make the slopes above the harbour in Portknockie safe.

However, the development comes more than a year since the port was cut-off after mud plunged down the cliff leaving homes perched on the edge of the drop.

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Yesterday the local authority said that ground investigation works needed to be done in advance of the tender process.

But Rob Barsby, chairman of the Portknockie Flood Action Group, believes rules and regulations have prevented the vital work from being done sooner.

He said: “It’s been frustrating but then anything that has to go through the bureaucratic process is frustrating – we just have to accept it and do what we can.

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“It’s good that things are still moving forward though. I know people are trying their hardest but when you are dealing with big organisations things tend to move slowly.

“Fortunately we’ve not had any big rain falls recently. I know some residents have bought flood defences just in case so it is still a worry.”

Water poured through the streets of Portknockie and Cullen in September last year following a deluge that left surrounding roads and fields submerged due to drains not being able to cope.

Torrents eventually crashed over the cliff edge, causing multiple landslips that also forced a popular footpath between the communities to be closed.

Moray Council approved a £1.7million repair project in April this year to tackle the “high and medium risk” landslip areas, but not those considered “low risk”.

The decision was described as the “best that could have been expected” at the time by locals.

Keith and Cullen councillor Donald Gatt said: “In an ideal world I would have liked all of this to have happened sooner – the longer these things take to repair there is a danger of it happening again.

“But we don’t live in an ideal world. The council has a lot of priorities to pursue and only a certain number of people to do them.

“I’m confident they’re doing all they can. The road there is already undermined and if we had another major incident there’s a chance it might disappear.”

Repairs to the footpath on the former railway line between Cullen and Portknockie are being done separately. Charity Sustrans has already had surveys and investigations done on the affected areas that have been undermined.

A Moray Council spokeswoman said: “We’ve undertaken ground investigation works, the results of which will inform the tender process.

“The work to repair the landslips is now out to tender and we hope to award the contract before the end of the year.”