The river defences Hawick needs to protect it from a repeat of the floods that engulfed it in December 2015 could be in place within five years.
The construction of a long-awaited flood protection scheme to protect the town from the River Teviot and Slitrig Water moved a step closer yesterday after councillors approved the final outline design of the project.
That decision was taken at a full meeting of Scottish Borders Council postponed from the week before, and it means the publication of the scheme, a crucial phase of the project, can now go ahead this April.
It came just three days after Selkirk’s £31.4m new flood defences were officially unveiled by Scottish Government environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham and on the same day that our sister paper the Selkirk Weekend Advertiser revealed they had already saved the town from flooding six times prior to that launch ceremony.
Publication in April will open the scheme up to potential objections, but the project team responsible for the defences has tried to minimise any risk of that by carrying out extensive proactive engagement with statutory consultees and the community over the last two years to identify and overcome key concerns.
Upon publication of the scheme, a formal 28-day objection period will begin, and after that, councillors will be asked to give final approval for the works, a decision expected to be made in September.
Approval will determine how the scheme unfolds and how much of the bill for it will be picked up by the Scottish Government.
The estimated overall cost of the scheme continues to be refined as its detailed design work continues, but it is expected to be about £36m.
The completion of the project is currently scheduled for March 2022.
It is expected that the Scottish Government will pick up four-fifths of the overall bill, with the council footing the remainder of the tab.
Selkirkshire councillor Gordon Edgar, the authority’s executive member for roads and infrastructure, said: “Significant progress has been made by the council on the Hawick flood protection scheme in recent months.
“The process has been aided by engagement with the public, community groups and businesses in order to overcome key issues, which, if raised as objections after publication of the scheme, could have led to delays.
“The support from members of the Hawick community has been invaluable, and the council is committed to delivering a flood protection scheme for townsfolk who have suffered from flooding in recent years.
“With the opening of the Selkirk flood protection scheme this week, we can see the tangible benefits of such a project, with 600 homes and businesses now protected from major flood events.
“We believe Hawick flood protection scheme can provide similar opportunities around business growth and employment, as well as providing protection to people’s homes from major flood events.”
No fewer than 500 properties had to be evacuated after Storm Desmond hit Hawick on December 5, 2015, causing large-scale destruction.
Though the town will remain vulnerable for years to come, the potential flooding already averted by Selkirk’s defences months prior to their completion will offer hope to Teries fearful of a rerun of the events of 15 months ago.