Demand to ensure Cree bridge is safe

A Newton Stewart resident who lives beside the River Cree has warned that unless the river bed is dredged the Cree bridge could collapse if the river should rise again to Monday’s levels.

Retired mining engineer Jim McDonald, from Arthur Street, is convinced the flooding crisis was exacerbated by silting in the river bed.

Jim was, like everyone else, spellbound by the sight of the raging river bursting its banks and flooding the town. The widely-held theory for this was the combination of many hours of heavy rain coming down from the hills and the high tide at half past three on Monday afternoon.

But Jim says he has noted the level of the river bed rising over the years and unless it is dredged there will be further flooding problems in future.

He said: “The water was above the safety level of the bridge on Monday and I am writing to Dumfries and Galloway Council about my concerns.

“The build-up of gravel has reduced the space under the bridge that the water has to go pass through.

“They have got to get the level down or the structure of the bridge will be threatened.”

Police Chief Inspector David McCallum, the officer in charge of operations during Monday’s emergency in the town, said that the main reason the Cree bridge was closed to traffic and pedestrians was because a cable had snapped on the suspension bridge further up and there were fears that if the structure gave way it would be swept downstream and crash into the Cree bridge or cause a tsunami-style shockwave.

Another contributory factor, said Mr McDonald, was “the settling tank” further down the river, that acted like “a big stone in the middle of the flood plain” causing the water to rise above it.

A Scottish Water spokesman said: “Any assertion that our storm water tank and transfer pumping station contributes towards flooding is incorrect. We want to assure Mr McDonald this is not a factor in the flooding. We would not have obtained permissions from the statutory bodies if this was the case. This tank is part of the waste water network which, in fact, holds storm water below ground level and the construction above ground is duly compensated by the storage below.

“Upgrade work to Scottish Water’s infrastructure in Newton Stewart since 2002 amounts to £21m, which included upgrading the waste water treatment works and massive improvements to the waste water network. These works were carried out in close consultation with SEPA.

“However, Scottish Water’s infrastructure is only one part of overall flood management. Newton Stewart is a town built on the banks of a river. Recent heavy rainfall on Sunday and Monday, combined with saturated ground, a high tide and constant rain is thought to be the root cause of this flooding. The River Cree has a long history of flooding at this location – in 1806 it was so bad it washed away the bridge over the river and it had to be rebuilt.”

n Letters – page 14