Gravel bank removal motion submitted

A MOTION to appeal against SEPA’s objections to proposals to remove the gravel bank at River Street will be submitted to full council which meets tomorrow (Thursday).

Brechin councillor Bob Myles has given notice of the motion to bring the matter to Scottish Ministers following a public meeting last month which saw an overriding public interest for the removal of the gravel bank.

As the motion falls within the period of a “six month rule” the Provost must agree to the motion being put to full council before they can debate the issue.

If the appeal was to go ahead it would be uncertain what the financial implications would be. However, if the appeal was agreed to be determined by a public meeting the additional external costs may come in at £20,000.

This an action that Jim Milne, from the Brechin and Area Partnership, hopes the Provost will agree to after being “bemused” by SEPA’s objections to the proposals to removed the gravel bank.

“I have attended every meeting of the Brechin Sounding Panel regarding Flood Prevention,” he commented.

“The panel was set to ensure local voices were heard and represented by our elected councillors and others when in discussion with the three public bodies who also took part: Scottish Water, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA).

“Last week’s SEPA letter left me somewhat bemused and perplexed to say the least.

“In all the meetings regarding the gravel bank removal only one figure has been quoted - if the bank was removed it would reduce the level of the river by five inches. This figure is easily calculated as was done by Angus Council engineers.

“What has not been calculated is that by removing the gravel bank it would also reduce the back pressure in the upstream water allowing it to flow more easily and clear quicker, thereby again potentially reducing the level.

He went on: “The comment regarding placing a row of bricks on the wall would have the same effect was ill judged and perhaps condescending to others on the panel and also those living in River Street who are most at risk.

“The comment regarding the Atlantic salmon was only raised at the last panel meeting but it was also stated that those entrusted with fishing activities on the Southesk had commented that removal of the gravel bank would have no effect on the migration of the salmon up the river.

“It was also ironic that in the weeks before the meeting the netting season for salmon in the sea off the Angus coast was extended. Neither SEPA or SHN made any representation to this activity, which depletes salmon stocks before they even reach the rivers.

“Montrose Harbour is regularly dredged for the safe passage of ships into the port but again do SEPA or SNH object? No.

“SNH representation at the meetings has been strange in that some of their representatives had no knowledge of what lives and breeds in the river and this situation still exists as no formal studies have been done in recent years.

“The only hard evidence presented was by a then community councillor who stated that he had canoed up and down the river and all he saw was dead mussels as a result of illegal activities that still go on.

“All we got was an estimate that maybe 500 freshwater mussels live in the area. Why not find them and move them if they are so precious and rare?”

Mr Milne continued: “At a previous meeting the SNH representative stated that SNH had no grounds to object to the removal of the gravel bank allowing Angus Council to proceed with a decision which raised no comment from SEPA. It was, therefore, unbelievable that after the meeting they did block the removal using mussels as the reason.

“The Sounding Panel was therefore seriously misled by SNH and SEPA which begs the question, why bother attending meetings if this is how we are treated.

“Councillor Bob Myles has now been joined by councillor Jim Houson in seeing the benefit to the River Street householders if the bank is removed.

“Hopefully they will be heard at a full council meeting and an objection raised to overturn the ill conceived blocking of a simple step in easing the risk of flood in River Street.

“Everyone on the panel is aware that this is not the ultimate solution but as they say “every little helps”.

“Comments have been made elsewhere that five inches of flood water is an insignificant amount but if the same five inches is coming across their living room floor it very quickly becomes significant.

“Scottish Water, the third public body, deserve a special mention. All points raised against them are noted and addressed with many remedial actions already instigated and helping reduce flooding within town boundaries. Many of these improvements have been done jointly by working in partnership with Angus Council and others in the proverbial pipeline.”