Public inquiry into planned Hawick flood defences would be disastrous, says group

Hawick Volunteer Flood Group chairman Stuart Marshall.
Hawick Volunteer Flood Group chairman Stuart Marshall.

Hawick Volunteer Flood Group chairman Stuart Marshall believes it would be a disaster if construction of the town’s proposed £41m flood protection scheme is hit by any hold-ups.

Two walkabouts and a public meeting were staged last week to give townsfolk a better understanding of what the long-awaited scheme involves.

That latest round of get-togethers came after 48 objections to the project were registered during a public consultation period.

Organisers hope that the meeting, attended by 150 people, and the walkabouts, staged at the lower and upper end of the Teviot and attended by 140 people in total, have helped address the concerns raised by the objectors.

But in a worst-case scenario for supporters of the project is that the objections could lead to a public inquiry, potentially holding up the works for months or even years.

That’s something Mr Marshall, also a Hawick and Denholm councillor, believes cannot be allowed to happen for the sake of the safety of the town.

He said: “I am keeping everything crossed that the issues around objections can be resolved, and I think it would be disastrous for the town if this scheme was to be delayed.

“On October 12, 2005, our town suffered the first of the great floods of our time, and since that date, Hawick has been shouting for a flood protection scheme.”

The 48 objections to the scheme were submitted during a consultation process earlier this year.

Many of the concerns raised centredon fears that walls to be built to protect the town from any repeat of recent floods will be far too high and visually unsightly.

Others question the need for several trees to be felled, especially in Duke Street.

Mr Marshall believes the walkabouts staged last week and the public meeting at Hawick Town Hall helped put many of those concerns into perspective, though.

In particular, it was concluded that some objectors assume that the walls will be two metres high in all locations, but members of the public were assured that heights would be lower along many stretches of the River Teviot.

The council is also pledging to provide at least two trees to replace every one that needs to be felled.

Nevertheless, concerns have been raised about perceived faults in the flood protection scheme.

One objector wrote: “While I understand only too well the need for measures to be put in place, I believe the proposed measures are in the extreme and will completely ruin Hawick and its riverside.

“The proposed height of the walls through the town is ludicrous and will turn what is a picturesque stretch of river into a concrete barrier between two sides of the town.

“While I understand the need to try and keep the water in the river, is there really any need for the walls to be made so high?

“I also believe there is a proposal to lift all the bridges by one metre. Surely it would be less costly and more sensible to lower the river bed levels?

“Yes, they will fill up again, but they will still fill up even if the bridges are lifted, thus negating the change in height.”

Mr Marshall said that residents who attended last week’s get-togethers should now have a clearer view of what the scheme is all about.

He said: “After last week’s very successful walkabouts, as well as the public meeting in the town hall, I think a lot of people had a much better understanding of the issues that concern them.

“Some people that I spoke to afterwards were pleased to learn that the heights of walls were not going to be as huge as initially feared.

“Another said that they felt that whilst trees will in some areas have to be removed, they were, however, pleased to hear that for every tree we lose, two will be replaced at a location still to be decided.

“Of course, people have the absolute right to object and raise their concerns about this massive project, and all of us must respect that right, but, at the end of the day, I’m sure everyone wants what’s best for those that matter most, and that is the flood victims themselves.

“We can’t keep on evacuating people and sandbagging homes.

“There is one thing, for sure, and that is until our town receives a flood protection scheme, then it will have to continue to rely very heavily on the volunteer flood group, who will continue to support those flood victims and those most vulnerable to the might of the Teviot.”

Chaired by former councillor Andrew Farquhar, last Tuesday’s meeting heard presentations from project manager Conor Price, project executive Ewan Doyle and design manager Steven Vint.