Hawick still at risk from flooding one year on, response group warns

Councillor Stuart Marshall looking over the River Teviot a year on from the 2015 floods that caused havoc in Hawick.
Councillor Stuart Marshall looking over the River Teviot a year on from the 2015 floods that caused havoc in Hawick.

One year on from a devastating deluge that wreaked havoc in Hawick, the town remains at risk of a repeat performance, a flood response co-ordinator has admitted.

No fewer than 500 properties were evacuated as Storm Desmond unleashed floods on homes and businesses on December 5 last year.

An aerial view of last December's flooding in Hawick.

An aerial view of last December's flooding in Hawick.

The devastation was even worse than previous floods that caused large-scale destruction in 2005.

Scottish Water is only just reaching the end of sewer repair and flood defence works in Mansfield and Duke Street, the areas worst affected.

Some residents have still not returned to their homes, and many townsfolk are living in fear of the same thing happening again.

Stuart Marshall, chairman of Hawick Volunteer Flood Group, admitted there is no guarantee that it won’t, and there won’t be until a multi-million-pound flood defence scheme is up and running in a few years’ time, he conceded.

One year on, Mr Marshall still has serious concerns over the security of parts of the town, particularly the Mansfield and Duke Street areas.

He said: “There is no cast-iron guarantee until a flood protection scheme is in place and it’s fit for purpose, but there is one thing I can assure townsfolk – Hawick Volunteer Flood Group has never been better prepared.

“If the emergency planning division of Scottish Borders Council work to the way they did last year, then I think we are in good shape.

“They were magnificent in their response and had obviously learned lessons from the past.

“What last year reinforced for me is what a tremendous community spirit we have in Hawick.

“When I saw the hundreds of people wanting to help, that’s a memory that will stick with me forever. It brought the best out in Hawick.”

Looking back 12 months, Mr Marshall recalled a town “under siege” and fearful of what was coming next.

He added: “I remember the lump I had in my throat when I saw what was happening to our town.

“It was under siege, and you were at the mercy of nature. It was heart-rending.

“I remember touring the destruction. That will live with me forever, especially at the bottom of Duke Street when I saw the wall had collapsed.

“Do people still feel safe? It depends if you’re in Mansfield and Duke Street. We still have big issues there to resolve.

“There is still a third of the town’s sewage being pumped over land, and we need to get that infrastructure back in place as soon as possible.

“The winter is upon us now, and when river levels start to rise and flood alerts get issued, so people get nervous, and quite rightly so.

“Down Mansfield and Duke Street, I have huge concerns.

“We really do need to get this back to rights.”

Mr Marshall believes new extra-high kerbing in Mansfield and Duke Street will help bring some reassurance.

He added: “I’ll never forget that day. I went to bed at midnight and I wasn’t in bed 15 minutes when the council phoned.

“It was the emergency planning division, and they told me that with the rainfall expected for Hawick in the next 48 hours it was on a par with October 12, 2005, which saw this town devastated, and would you please make your way to the police station because we were going to have a conference call up there.

“I couldn’t believe it. I was up there within 20 minutes, and by the time I got there, the Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue Team was moving into the police station.

“We saw dinghies coming in, the fire and rescue service was there. All the emergency services were.”

Mr Marshall added: “You can never protect totally against nature, and as the provost, I shed a few tears last year over the shape Hawick was left in, but the town has responded magnificently.”