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RURAL AFFAIRS AND ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE

SUBMISSION FROM SANDWICK COMMUNITY COUNCIL

This community has already suffered from flooding, which may have been a result of changes to our climate. In September 2003, after a heavy, very localised rainstorm, this community suffered a series of flash floods. Over 20 landslips and bog bursts occurred, two of which blocked the main road between Lerwick and Sumburgh Airport, on either side of Sandwick, cutting us off completely for several hours. This was the third occasion on which this road had been blocked by a landslip in the past four years. Huge quantities of water and dislodged peat swept down several burns through the village. A road bridge was washed away, isolating Hoswick from the rest of Sandwick. Eleven houses were flooded, two of which had to be evacuated. Two kilometres of water main were destroyed, resulting in the community having to rely on bottled water for several days.

The Shetland Islands Council (SIC), Scottish Water and emergency services responded very quickly and within a couple of days, things were almost back to normal. In addition, the SIC provided funding to cover uninsured losses to householders where the subjects were uninsurable, repair unadopted roads and contribute to the damage caused to agricultural businesses.

There is a lack of clarity in the area of responsibility for flood protection between local authorities and Scottish Water. For an Island Authority, this is absurd since the water resources of each individual Island Authority affect no other Authority. Responsibility for water and drainage and hence flood prevention, should be returned to the Island Authorities.

Scottish Water could handle the monitoring of water quality on an agency basis.

We consider that clarification of the roles of the local authority and SEPA is needed. The local authority should have the major role in flood defence and prevention.

Local Authorities should be responsible for flood management with grant assistance from the Scottish Government.

Flood management for river catchment has a limited application in Shetland. Sea levels and wave activity represent the major threat and need to be assessed for new developments. For existing areas under threat, investment in flood prevention needs to be considered in terms of cultural as well as financial terms, (e.g.) it is important that areas of archaeological importance such as Jarlshof are protected.

Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) has a role in built up areas but the benefit of applying it in rural island communities is very doubtful. Sustainable flood management has a role in preventing flash flooding by managing catchments and watercourses to reduce the risk.

Land-use management is important in mitigating against flooding. Grazing levels should be managed in areas vulnerable to flash floods, bog bursts and landslips. Overgrazing can reduce the ability of moorland to cope with sudden heavy rain events. The planning system is important in preventing buildings being constructed in areas vulnerable to flash flooding and where flooding by the sea is likely.

We received no warning of the events of 19 September 2003. Weather radar may have been able to detect the particularly unusual cloudburst that damaged our community.

As outlined above, in 2003, the responses of SIC, Scottish Water and emergency services were excellent.

Sandwick Community Council

19 November 2007