Council hit back at flood criticism

Dumfries and Galloway Council has hit back at criticism regarding the progress of flood prevention solutions for Newton Stewart and the River Cree.

As previously publicised, a series of work is planned including:

• The Riverside road wall: A design has been completed, not simply to replace the existing wall like by like which would not be effective, but to enable the height to be increased to ensure it was part of the future flood protection scheme for Newton Stewart. Works are expected to start in early August 2016. As advised to the Cree Valley Community Council previously, the existing temporary structure, while not visually acceptable, is sound and effective, probably more so than the original wall.

• Sparling Bridge: This needs to be raised by 1.2m. Preliminary design has been completed and a pre-planning application submitted but, as it is necessary to move the bridge slightly upstream, the matter is being discussed with the landowner. Works are expected to start in September/October 2016.

• Stroan Bridge: A detailed topographical survey has been completed and a range of options explored. These require that aesthetics, traffic access, and tourism impact be considered. Appropriate materials are currently being discussed with suppliers and a costed, feasible scheme is expected in August. Works are expected to start in September/October 2016.

• Cree Bridge: Work to remove ivy and small saplings, point joints, reset parapet stones, and repair lights was done in May. Historic Environment Scotland has advised that more robust cleaning should not be done on the bridge.

The Solway Local Flood Risk Management Plan (published 16 June 2016) and approved by statutory agencies sets out the Council’s programme of works for the first 6 year cycle (2016-2022), a statutory requirement. It is not a timetable for any one programme.

The Council’s Engineering Design and Flood Risk Management Teams are obviously responsible for the whole region and have limited resources to address similar issues and expectations from a range of communities and the Council has been pursuing external funding. The recent joint agreement between CoSLA and the Scottish Government provides funding of £42m a year for the next 10 years to address Local Flood Risk Management Plans. This will ensure 80% funding for Newton Stewart within the first cycle, with the Council match funding the rest (20%). The confirmation of the funding means that a scheme can now be pursued.

A Council spokesperson said, “Clearly, until funding was confirmed, a full flood prevention scheme for Newton Stewart that will cost taxpayers an estimated £7.5m could not be fully pursued. However, a great deal of development work has taken place, despite limited resources and significant demand from communities right across Dumfries and Galloway and a whole series of initial work has either been undertaken or is about to begin. The Council has kept the local community council, flood action group, and local councillors informed of this progress and developments through a regular update. However, to ensure this information is properly circulated to the wider community, a letter is also being sent to businesses affected by last year’s flooding to make them aware of the work being carried out and a regular newsletter will be launched to ensure regular community updates.”