Councillors accused of ‘gambling’ with safety of Moray village

Shingle barrier at Kingston – hopes of further protection dashed

Residents of a Moray coastal village under constant threat of flooding have said they will not give up their fight for a new barrier being built to protect their homes.

Councillors voted by eight votes to five against a community-led plan to build a reinforced rock wall that would help protect the village.

A plan backed by over 120 villagers was put to members of the economic development and infrastructure committee on Tuesday by local councillor Douglas Ross.

The proposal, which was backed by Labour councillor Sean Morton and SNP councillor Margo Howe, was thrown out by the committee who chose to continue to monitor the situation instead – a “wait and see” policy that has been constantly criticised by residents who say that councillors are ‘gambling’ with their homes.

In a report prepared by Moray Council consultancy manager Dave Gowans, councillors were told that several “what if” scenarios had been studied on a benefit versus cost ratio basis. It admitted that the imminent loss of 15 properties was the worst-case considered and provided the highest ratio of all.

While recognising that representatives from the community had challenged assumptions that underpinned the business case against investing in a new barrier, the report insisted that there was no economic justification for taking any action.

Councillor Ross presented an alternative report to the committee in which the community had prepared their own business case. That insisted that several of the assumptions made in the official business case were incorrect – however, while recognising the work put in by the community in preparing their case councillors voted against the proposal.

One of the resident’s who prepared the report for the committee was Ian Lambert, an environment consultant who worked on the technical aspects of the report.

He said: “We are obviously disappointed – the previous agenda items were all about flooding that actually happened, so when it came to our plan I think that the fact no houses had yet been affected put it into perspective.

“But the fight goes on – we recognise the threat both from the river and the sea and the council are gambling, frankly.”

Committee Chairman John Cowe said: “There is a minimum cost/benefit ratio established when it comes to spending public money on such schemes. Clearly the committee felt it did not meet that – however, we will continue to monitor the situation in Kingston.”

Councillor Ross meanwhile said he could understand the frustrations of villagers who will feel they have been let down by the local authority. He said: “Residents in Kingston could have been well served by the Council – but after that vote I can fully understand if they felt let down by it instead.”

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