Councillor fights SEPA objections

An emergency motion to appeal objections by SEPA over the removal of the gravel bank at River Street has been submitted by Brechin councillor Bob Myles, subject to approval by the Provost.

Councillor Myles, who can see no reason why the gravel bank should not be removed, lodged an amendment to appeal SEPA’s objections at Angus Council’s infrastructure services committee last week but the motion was rejected. Despite this he is continuing his fight to get the gravel bank removed.

At a meeting of the flood alleviation sheme community sounding panel, Councillor Myles let his feelings be known - he would like to see the short term measures being implemented.

“The one in 200 year flood, if it came, would be one flood but there could be 30 to 40 that could be contained by short term measures. The 30 to 40 are more likely to occur.

“The mussel survey identified 500 mussels of which one quarter were dead. Will the removal of the gravel bank affect mussels at all? The bank could be taken out without any disturbance to the river and mussels.

“I feel for the people of Brechin. At the public meeting at Bridgend all Brechin councillors were left with no doubt what the feeling of the community was and that was fight this tooth and nail.

“I referred this to full council on Friday but discovered that the way things has landed I will not be able to do this.

“What I can do is put it as an emergency motion but to get that accepted I need the permission of the Provost.

“In my mind all Brechin councillors are united on this.

“The annoying thing about the infrastructure committee, where councillor Mairi Evans convened, was that I had previously spoken to her beforehand, and she agreed, that we would put in an appeal. When it came to the meeting she didn’t and she voted against doing that then determined that my amendment was out of order when it was clearly in order.

“My misunderstanding of standing orders was that we had three days. It clearly says three days, however, the three days includes the day of the meeting. This is crazy since the meeting finished at 6pm.

“I am quite happy to put forward the emergency motion but it will only be heard by the council if the Provost agrees to it.

“What did surprise me at the public meeting was there was a lacklustre feeling for the full scheme.

“I do feel the people of Brechin have reservations about whether the scheme will have any benefits to Brechin. It might turn out to be a worst case scenario that we spend £20 million and end up with something worse than before. That is the fear anyway.

“The gravel bank, in my mind, is a small step that we could take and I am still to be convinced that there are any arguments that the mussel habitat or the salmon habitat will be effected in the least. These are red herrings.

“We can build the best wall to stop the river bursting its banks but that is no use if we don’t solve problems with surface water.

“We have been discussing the problems for two years and we are now two years down the line and not one pebble has been moved.

“The removal of the gravel would help reduce the level of the river and would divert the river from eroding the bank at River Street. In a short time we could have huge erosion problems in River Street.”

Defending her decision to reject the motion to appeal SEPA’s objections, Councillor Mairi Evans said: “I supported Councillor Myles in the removal of the gravelbank when it was last up for discussion and would have continued to try to make this happen had the CAR licence been granted, however SEPA refused the licence in June of this year.

“I am absolutely committed to finding a solution that will prevent flooding issues in Brechin, and was extremely disappointed to learn of the refusal of the licence.

“The committee report which was brought before the infrastructure services committee last Tuesday made clear that the CAR licence had been refused and highlighted that unfortunately there would be no realistic chance of success on appeal.

“The decision taken on Tuesday was not made lightly; I had made contact with councillors and officers of other councils to ascertain if similar decisions had been taken and successfully appealed.

“Dumfries and Galloway Council faced an almost identical situation between 2008-2010 in relation to the River Nith. They required a CAR licence which was refused by SEPA, they appealed to Scottish Minister’s and SEPA’s views were upheld and they lost.

“Even had the appeal proceeded, the removal would still have faced the planning committee where objections from SEPA and Scottish Natural Heritage would have meant the planning application be recommended for refusal.

“The amendment by Councillor Myles was not ‘rejected’, it could not even be considered by the committee because it did not comply with the very standing orders changed during his administration.

“I honestly felt I would have been seriously misleading the people of Brechin by pursuing something which could incur huge cost for the council, with no hope of success.

“I attended the public meeting on Thursday and welcomed the fact that so many people turned up to express their views.

“There was exceptionally strong feeling in support of continuing with an appeal and I know that Councillor Myles was going to refer the item to full council for further consideration, so I fully support him in doing so.

“I would urge people in Brechin to attend and that they ask to address the council to make the strength of feeling known to all members.”

Also keen to ensure the homes of Brechin are kept safe from the effects of flooding is Nigel Don MSP. Commenting, he said: “It is essential to get on with this project which will provide protection to homes and residents in the River Street area, and businesses on the industrial estate.

“Changes in the law mean that any serious delays could mean reshaping the flood prevention scheme under new legislation, and that can only increase the time taken to get something effective in place.

“I have asked Scottish Ministers to support this, but until we actually put a scheme forward they cannot reasonably be expected to make a decision.”

A public meeting was held at Bridgend Bar last week (see page 16) when 70 residents turned up to discuss Brechin’s flood schemes.

The meeting was reported to have got “heated at times” and reportedly saw people in favour of the gravel bank’s removal.