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Highland Council: Inverness can't cope with heavy rain

By Val Sweeney

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AGEING infrastructure in Inverness is not fit to cope with extreme rainfall, council bosses have admitted.

The revelation comes just days after heavy rain caused disruption across the region and forced a city tourism business to close its doors at the height of the season due to water damage.

One city councillor is now urging cash-strapped Highland Council to “put the begging bowl to the Scottish Government” to bring infrastructure, including drains, up to standard.

Inverness suffered localised flooding last week when as much rain fell in two to three hours as in the whole of August last year, while nearby Dingwall was also hit by flash floods.

Businesses affected included the Inverness Student Hotel in Culduthel Road which has closed for repairs for a few weeks.

Owner Jo Morgan said the backpackers’ hostel was full with 57 guests when rivers of water flowing down Culduthel Road and Old Edinburgh Road merged and poured into the building in the early hours of Wednesday, triggering the fire alarm and resulting in the building being temporarily evacuated.

“Everyone was very understanding and the staff coped brilliantly,” Miss Morgan said.

“But it is a nightmare – it is high season but the building is extensively damaged.

“It is going to be an enormous task to re-open the building.”

The hostel was fully booked for the whole of August and stands to miss out on £1000 a night during the closure, though that loss will be covered by insurance.

Immediately following the flooding, Miss Morgan asked the council to clear the nearby road gulleys, knowing further rain was forecast, but was told there was only one cleaning machine for the area.

“I feel for the council, to be perfectly honest,” she said.

“They are doing their best but don’t have the resources.

“But I feel in a vulnerable position. There is nothing on a personal level I can do to prevent this happening again. I hope those who can do something about it will do so.”

A council spokeswoman said there were three gulley cleaning machines for the Highlands, but just one dedicated to the Inverness area.

“The issue is not about gullies being cleaned as when the water levels fall, the water recedes,” she said. “The issue is that the Victorian infrastructure below the gullies is not fit for the extreme levels of rain and flash flooding events that we are increasingly experiencing.”

Inverness Central councillor Bet McAllister said during her 12 years on the council, the roads department had never been given enough funding,

“Now that is coming back to bite,” she said.

“They do need need the money and if we don’t have the money, where are we going to get it from?

“We will have to put the begging bowl to the Scottish Government and see if they will give us the extra money.”

Inverness South Councillor Andrew Jarvie also hit out.

“The recent torrential downpour and ensuing floods show just how badly roads and drainage across Highland need replacing, upgrading and maintained,” he said.

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