Crucial week ahead for planned Hawick flood defences

The River Teviot running through Hawick.
The River Teviot running through Hawick.

Next week is a crucial one for Hawick’s proposed £41m flood protection scheme as any objectors will have 28 days from next Tuesday, April 18, to register their reservations with Scottish Borders Council, potentially holding up work for months.

On that date, the council will officially publish the scheme, triggering a statutory consultation period ending on Tuesday, May 16.

“The publication of the scheme is the most important stage of the project for determining the programme of works and successfully obtaining funding as it opens up the final design to public query and challenge,” said the council’s project management team leader Ewan Doyle in a report to councillors.

The council has set aside a two-month period – from May 22 to July 28 – to “discuss and negotiate with objectors”.

Subject to the success of any such talks, the council will finally confirm the scheme in September and work willthen get under way.

However, Mr Doyle cautioned that failure to resolve objections could result in a delay to a scheme set to strengthen the town’s flood defences along a 3.5-mile stretch of the Rover Teviot, currently scheduled for completion in March, 2022.

“Despite all the proactive engagement the project team has undertaken, there is still a high chance of receiving valid objections as the slightest concern can be lodged as an objection,” said Mr Doyle.

“The project team has mitigated this as far as possible with proactive engagement with statutory consultees and the community over the past two years to overcome key concerns.

“We have undertaken a robust land-referencing process to identify all land owners, land occupiers, businesses, individuals, agencies and community groups that needed to be legally notified of the scheme publication.

“If a valid or relevant objection is submitted that cannot be mitigated, the scheme may have to be determined by a public local inquiry, led by either the local authority or the Scottish Government.

“It is likely this could add on a significant period to the delivery programme.”

Mr Doyle said that would add at least nine months to the process and could impact on the funding programme of the Scottish Government, which is expected to underwrite four-fifths of the project’s costs.

Meanwhile, the council has taken to the Public Contracts Scotland website to invite tenders for the role of project manager for the scheme.

The successful candidate will be paid an estimated £500,000, excluding VAT, for a contract which will last for five years and 11 months.

Tenders must be submitted by May 16.