Fined for trying to save her home from floods

Bridget Hillman outside her home near Monreith
Bridget Hillman outside her home near Monreith

A pensioner heard this week that the council will charge her almost £400 for acting responsibly to save her home from being washed away in the winter storms.

Bridget Hillman, a widow who lives alone on the shore at Monreith, had her sea defences and part of her garden washed way in the first tidal surge on January 3.

On the day the second tidal surge roared in on February 1, Mrs Hillman got permission from the owner of the shoreline to move £1500 of rocks to protect the front of her home. The work was competed in the nick of time with the digger driver involved up to his knees in water by the end.

But local authority planners arrived on her doorstep after receiving a complaint about the work she had done.

Mrs Hillman was stunned to hear she must apply for retrospective planning permission at a cost of £386 because the rocks used were bigger than the ones they replaced.

A letter from the council’s planning department said: “The defences you have constructed appear to be of greater magnitude than previous defences.

“The work undertaken cannot be considered a minor repair.”

Mrs Hillman said: “I was just protecting my home if I hadn’t done it that day my house would have been washed away!

”The first surge washed away all that was there - the rocks and the banking. I had waves coming into my garden ad stopping six inches from my front door.

“We knew there was a second one on the way so I took advice from community council leader Jock McMaster and contacted to Rory Christie from the Dourie Farming Company who own the beach. Both gave me their support.”

Wigtown West Councillor Roberta Tuckfield was frustrated at the council Draconian attitude.

She said: “We try and encourage communities to have resilience to cope with the winter weather and here we have a woman, all on her own, who acted to save her property.

“I don’t understand how the planning department can say these rocks are bigger than the ones they replaced. She didn’t have a measuring tape at the time to check what size they were.

“I know there are planning rules but the area around Port William suffered so much because of the storms you would think they would employ a lighter touch in this case.”

Elected members have called on the council to source other funding streams to support people whose private property was damaged during the storms.