Tweed Forum boss fears EU exit vote will hit bid for cash for flood prevention work

Luke Comins, third from left, with Tweed Forum staff.
Luke Comins, third from left, with Tweed Forum staff.

A bid for European Union funding to improve the River Tweed’s natural defences against extreme weather events such as flooding is now unlikely to go ahead, it is feared.

Tweed Forum director Luke Comins voiced his concerns this week while considering the potential impact on his organisation, based at Drygrange, of last month’s referendum vote to leave the EU.

He revealed that the multi-interest forum had been preparing to submit a funding application to Horizon 2020, the EU’s biggest research and innovation programme.

“The bid, which was in its early stages, related to how we can build resilience against more extreme climatic events,” said Mr Comins. “Because the application has yet to be submitted, it will almost certainly not go ahead now.”

The work would have been a natural fit for the forum’s flagship work to slow the flow of the Eddleston Water, which regularly floods when it gets to the Tweed in Peebles.

Over the past three years, the original meandering course of the tributary has been restored in a joint initiative with the Scottish Government and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

A network of rain, groundwater and river level gauges have been installed to collect data on how the engineering work has affected flows and flood frequency.

Last year came the news that the three participating agencies had been awarded additional funding of 400,000 euros over the next four years from the EU North Sea region’s Interreg project, Building with Nature.

“This money is to improve the Eddleston Water monitoring network, which helps us collect scientific evidence to support the implementation of natural flood management measures in the catchment,” said Mr Comins. “It will also improve our understanding of the multiple benefits of natural flood management.”

Asked if this funding was still assured, Mr Comins told us: “We think we will be OK because it was signed off by the EU last year. However, we are still awaiting definitive confirmation of this.”

Meanwhile, the national profile of the Eddleston Water project is set to be raised when it features later this year in a television documentary series on Britain’s rivers.

A BBC crew, with presenter Jeremy Paxman, has been filming this week along an 800-metre stretch of the river near Cringletie, near Peebles.