Council row as resident fears garden may slip into slitrig

Liddesdale Road resident Harry Turnbull
Liddesdale Road resident Harry Turnbull

A LIDDESDALE Crescent resident whose garden is being washed into the Slitrig has issued a plea for the local authority to help.

Harry Turnbull has described the slow erosion of his land at Lynwood as disappearing like a “sandcastle at the seaside” – and he is now tangled up in a battle with Scottish Borders Council.

Speaking on behalf of himself and five neighbours, who are also losing the bottom of their gardens, Mr Turnbull stated: “Six of us are affected by severe erosion. Since the flood of 2005 the course of the river has changed, and I’ve lost three metres from my banking. It is like a sandcastle at the seaside, and every time there are high waters, I lose another foot of banking.”

And the concerned homeowner, a consulting civil engineer, says the problem stems from the former Slitrig Cauld which was breached by Roxburgh District Coucil in 1989 at the request of the the River Tweed Commission.

Mr Turnbull went on: “The first major flood after the cauld was breached was in 2005 and the problem started then. There’s a hole in the cauld which is letting water through faster, creating a hole in the banking. Water is being deposited opposite us, and the river is bouncing from side to side. There are also now huge boulders from the cauld in the river. And we feel the council has an obligation to bear maintenance.”

But that is the root of the dispute which has forced the householders to hire a solicitor, as well as a hydrologist – and have even applied for a license from the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) to allow them to repair their bankings.

With responsibility for maintenance of the cauld transferred from the Duke of Buccleuch to Hawick Town Council when the land was sold in 1931, Mr Turnbull says they are fighting a ‘grey area’.

He explained: “Scottish Borders Council initially stated they had no obligation with regard to maintenance of the cauld. They now ‘wholly acknowledge’ they may have a duty to indemnify the owner of the cauld (Buccleuch Estates), but as they are unaware of any liability that falls to the Duke in relation to any matter relating to the cauld, see no evidence of any duty to do anything.

Highlighting the effect the problem is having on the residents, he added: “My main concern is that if the cauld and river are left, it will continue to destroy everything we have put in. We feel we have been treated really badly by the council, and unless it is your home, people don’t realise how important it is.”

And with the cost to repair Mr Turnbull’s land alone estimated at more than £6,000, he added: “We hold the council responsible for the damage and would ask that they do something to regulate the flow of the river, remove some of the boulders, and ideally contribute towards the cost of the repairs.”

A spokesman for SBC stated: “The council does not own Slitrig Cauld and has no responsibility to repair it. However, we understand the concerns of the residents and have been in discussion with some of them and SEPA as to how this situation might be most effectively addressed. We will continue to work with them to find a workable solution to the erosion and threat of flooding that residents are, quite naturally, concerned about.”