THE Scottish capital is heading for another trams-style disaster with its controversial flood-prevention scheme, critics warn.
Edinburgh City Council is beefing up its flood defences along the Water of Leith after the river burst its banks in 2000 – causing £25million of damage and affecting 500 properties.
But the project is already running a year behind schedule, has nearly doubled its budget from £11m to £21m, and could end up being only one third of the way completed.
And now the main contractor of the Water of Leith Flood Prevention Scheme, civil engineers Lagan Construction, is challenging its bill with the council, which is up from £11.5m last year.
The half-completed works have become a hit on YouTube after residents uploaded videos of the site overflowing every time it rains.
Project chiefs say bad weather is to blame for the delays, but critics are comparing the flood prevention scheme to the council’s disastrous trams project.
The original budget for the trams stood at £375m but has since ballooned to an estimated £1bn.
Green Party Councillor Nigel Bagshaw said: “There is an ongoing problem with the way contracts are drafted in Edinburgh, and they need to be much tighter so the city does not enter into open-ended commitments.”
Edinburgh council have admitted it does not have enough money to finish the final two phases of the project, which would cost an extra £65.9m.
Mr Bagshaw added: “The scheme is a sledgehammer to crack a nut and comes at far too high a price in terms of monetary cost, environment damage, and the impact on the lives of those living next to the construction sites. My hope now is that the works will be completed on time so that life can get back to normal for the people of the Stockbridge Colonies and Warriston.
“As phases two and three are unlikely to go ahead we need to take a reasoned look at alternatives to protect people’s homes and ensure that they can get insurance for their houses.”
Local residents hit out at the delayed works.
Senga Reid, 41, of Bell Place, said: “You are having a laugh. We never needed all the defences.
“The street has been flooded out this year for the first time – while the works were being done. I’ve lived here all my life and that was the only time it has flooded here. All we needed was the weak bits in the wall fixed. They took down the wall here just before the flood in July.
“It was coming through the space and I ran down to get the car out. I only just managed it, the water was seconds away. It got to waist height.”
Neighbour Deborah Anderson likened the project to the trams – running late, over budget and incomplete. She added: “There are cracks in the walls and we can’t even put scaffolding up until the work is finished. My garden has become a rubbish dump.”
Edinburgh council said it was in discussion with Lagan Construction Ltd who are currently constructing phase one, over the level of additional costs for the work carried out.
It added: “Any increase in estimated cost for phase one would result in the shortfall for phase two increasing. Cost certainty cannot be guaranteed at this moment in time and it is likely that it will be at least January 2013 before an accurate figure can be reported.”
Lesley Hinds, council environment leader, said: “The project has been affected by a number of factors including adverse weather and alterations to the design brought about by unforeseen land conditions, which means it is running approximately one year behind schedule.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said it had a duty to fund new projects elsewhere in Scotland. He said: “The Government met Edinburgh City Council and Cosla earlier this year to discuss additional funding for the Water of Leith Constructions.
“Following the meeting, Cosla and the Government agreed to consider the additional funding of existing schemes when determining the criteria to be used for allocating undistributed funding available for flood projects.”
The extensive construction at the Water of Leith is part of a plan to protect properties and avoid a repeat of the ruin to homes and businesses caused by flood waters in April 2000.
The first phase of the scheme, to protect Stockbridge to Bonnington, began in March 2011, and was due to finish three months ago.
But in July this year, around 100 homes were badly affected by heavy rainfall, after the Stockbridge Colonies flooded.
Edinburgh Council has admitted it does not have enough money to finish phase two of the project – from Murrayfield to Belford – and phase three – Balgreen to Longstone.