THE usually calm waters of the River South Esk have churned up quite a political storm, following last week’s meeting of Angus Council’s infrastructure services committee, with Angus Council’s leader accusing the SNP opposition group of being “far removed from the realms of reality”.
Councillor Bob Myles’ comments were directed at Brechin opposition Councillor Mairi Evans after she supported a motion from Independent Arbroath Councillor Bob Spink, seeking to protect the fresh water mussels and eco system which prevails in the river’s waters.
The Angus Council leader said he was “astonished” at Councillor Evans’ stance on the matter and had actually expected her to back the proposals for the removal of the gravel banking, rather than oppose the move and second an alternative.
Councillor Myles said: “My proposed amendment to the director’s report was to instigate proceedings which would enable the gravel bank to be removed once the appropriate licenses are in place.
“This could be done at a fraction of the cost of the full scheme and, although it may not prevent that one in 200 year flood as required by the government, it could prevent the 20 to 30 lesser floods that may occur in the meantime. This is in line with what was historically done on the River South Esk in years gone by.
“There is a window of opportunity to get these works done in the summer months, therefore it is imperative we do not miss this opportunity this year.
“We must get the paperwork in place so that the works can be done when the weather is favourable.
“I cannot believe a Brechin Councillor who attended many of the Flood Forums we have had with the public in Brechin would oppose the very measures that have been suggested at every meeting that took place.
“She is prepared to sit and do nothing in the hope the Scottish Government will come up with the £14-15 million pounds to fund the scheme
“We have decided what is more important - people’s homes or the possibility there may or may not be freshwater mussels in the gravel bank.
“If the mussels are present they could always be re-located in other stretches of the river anyway, as they would in normal spate conditions.”
Councillor Evans defended her stance.
“In the report there was a long list of recommendations. One of these recommendations highlighted that the removal of the gravel bank was unlikely to make any significant difference to the level of flooding which may occur in Brechin.
“On top of that it would cost a great deal of money and would only act as a short term solution. It was also estimated that the gravel bank could return within five to ten years.
“I was ready to agree to the report. However, we had a recess to discuss Bob’s motion.
“When we returned to the chamber, Bob Spink put forward another amendment which I elected to support. One of the main reasons for this is that I feel the focus should be placed on Scottish Water to do something about the drainage systems.
“Unless we get them to act and do something about that, either removing the gravel bank or building the flood defence system won’t make the slightest bit of difference.
“Locals are only too well aware that flooding in the town doesn’t only occur in River Street.
“We have seen it before when, following heavy rain, drains have popped open in Southesk Street. There has been severe flooding in Latch Road, simply because the drainage system couldn’t handle the deluge of heavy rain, and this is regardless of the height of the river.
“To me this is the main issue on top of pursuing the main flood defence system.
“Everyone has their own opinion as to what will make a difference to the flooding in River Street.
“Another massive problem for people living down there is their inability to get their houses insured.
“People can’t get home insurance until a full flood defence scheme is in place, but I still feel Scottish Water hold the key to the solution here.
“Unless they have more pressure put on them nothing will make a difference.
“Both the council and the Scottish Government have contacted Scottish Water. There was a free vote and that was meant to be so this didn’t turn into a political debate.
“That’s exactly what free votes exist, so members can act as they see fit.”
Councillor Myles’ motion was carried by ten votes to four.