Urgent meeting called onf lood prevention

The retaining wall along the River Cree only just held out
The retaining wall along the River Cree only just held out

A NEWTON Stewart businessman has called for council chiefs to take urgent measures to safeguard the town against future flooding.

Gordon Andrews, who owns the Galloway Arms Hotel and the Belted Galloway Visitor Centre, was backed unanimously by community councillors on Monday when he went to them for support in ensuring the town is better protected from the water which threatened to devastate the town just over a fortnight ago.

The local Business Association chairman added that his buildings face being uninsurable if action isn’t taken to protect them from the water.

The Belted Galloway was swamped by the overflowing River Cree during the flood, which saw nearby residents evacuated and a 24-hour watch placed on adjacent gas tanks. The retaining walls along Riverside Road - the only barrier against the rapidly rising waters - showed signs of strain throughout the day before water began simply sloshing over the top.

Mr Andrews said at the monthly meeting of Cree Valley Community Council that his company is facing around £100,000 worth of damage and that his hotel on Victoria Street, along with all other nearby businesses, could also have been wiped out in a moment.

He said: “If that wall hedn’t held, it doesn’t bear thinking about what the town would have faced.

“My two businesses generate over £1 million for the economy and we’ve lost one already. I’m here to seek reassurances that something is going to be done to reinforce our flood defences.”

Mr Andrews added that he hopes to have the Belted Galloway open in time for the 2013 season but that he’s not prepared to invest money in it if he can’t insure it, having been told he may not be covered for flood damage in the future.

He also raised a similar event in Cockermouth three years ago which wiped out the town centre, adding that it has taken until now for that town to recover materially.

Councillor Alistair Geddes said that Dumfries and Galloway Council needed to be made aware of the severity of the flood and the fear of it happening again, adding that representatives from SEPA, the council, town traders and specialist advisors need to give their input.

He said: “It’s all well and good calling this a once in 200-year flood, but we don’t know that. It could happen again before Easter, or even next week so this matter should be treated as very urgent indeed and the council have a duty to us on flood prevention and management.

“We need to get all the key figures around a table if we’re serious about preserving the town from a residential and commercial point of view.”

Agreeing, councillor Jim McColm said: “The council have to be aware what a close incident this was.”

The retaining wall along the River Cree was rebuilt years ago following pressure from then community councillor Alec Nisbett, who recognised it wouldn’t withstand much more pressure.

Members of the council on Monday night suggested lengthtening the wall by just 20-feet would have contained the incident, and a theory was also put forward that perhaps the Sparling Bridge compounded the issue by failing to allow the water over it due to the heavy debris barrier which formed along its length, pushing the water backwards instead. It was agreed to request relevant bodies attend an urgent meeting before Christmas to discuss having an in-depth report drawn up on the events, and also with a view of how to ensure there is no repeat.