MSP demands inquiry into Gala floods as retailer calls SBC to account

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A BUSINESS owner whose washed-out shop lost £4,000 during last month’s Galashiels floods has called on Scottish Borders Council (SBC) to pay greater attention to the waterway responsible.

Inis founder Eileen Randall believes SBC workmen should have done more to ensure the Bakehouse Burn in Livingston Place was cleared after claims they were called away from the waterway which flooded twice during the afternoon of November 22.

And local MSP Christine Grahame has called for a swift inquiry into the incident, which brought chaos to Galashiels town centre, the worst affected being Bank Street.

Mrs Randall, whose designer clothing brand also has stores in Hawick and Peebles, says her Bank Street premises bore the brunt of the flood water which rose to 12 inches.

She told TheSouthern: “I am paying huge rates on that shop and should be getting proper protection from flooding.

“Surely it would make more sense to keep two council workers at the culvert until after 5pm and pay them for the extra 10 or 12 hours work.When you think about the claims ourselves, Wilkie’s and other stores affected on Bank Street will have to make, as well as the disruption, it would be a lot more cost-effective in the long run.”

Mrs Randall has now spent around £400 on flood-protection products. She added: “We only get a two-minute warning when the culvert floods. I spent the following Saturday and Sunday at the culvert watching it in case it flooded again – I should not have to do that.

“Overall, we lost at least £4,000. We had to sell a lot of wet stock off cheapily. Thankfully, my employee Ursula McGuckin and her friend from the Moondogs Café managed to lift a lot of stock away from the water, otherwise I could have been looking at a £25,000 bill. Ursula deserves credit for doing a great job.

“Our Streamline system was out for five days, meaning we could not take debit or credit card purchases, which make up 75 per cent of sales. We were also without our online system for six days because the cables were wet.”

Ms Grahame has visited businesses hit by the deluge and met SBC officials to discuss the incident. The Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP claims the fourth flood in 11 years means SBC must take more action to protect town-centre stores.

She said: “There were concerns raised with me about the lack of sandbags that were readily available and this is something else that needs to be addressed so that business owners can protect their stock and premises if this happens again.

“I understand that the men clearing the culvert were called away to another incident and sandbags could not be accessed as they were under lock and key in private premises.

“I have suggested a number of measures to the council that could help to ensure this doesn’t happen again, including shops and offices keeping sandbags within their premises at all times, and a notice should be circulated to the business owners about what to do and who to contact should the need arise again.

“These are basic measures which could have gone a long way in protecting people’s properties and I look forward to hearing what the council comes back with.”

Mrs Randall added: “The last time there was a flood, a resident along Bank Street kindly offered to let us store sandbags in his garden shed. However, we do not know if he still lives there and we don’t have a key.

“Even if we did, the sandbags are heavy and I don’t think the girls I have working in the shop could lift them into place within the two-minute warning.”

An SBC spokesman said the culvert overflowed, but was cleared at 4pm.

However, within 30 minutes debris had blocked the grills again, causing yet another flood, this time reaching the town centre.

He added: “We are the only council in Scotland to have public access sandbag stores, and a discounted flood protection scheme that the public can make use of.

“These sandbag stores at fire stations are designed so that the public can access them for sandbags in advance of potential flooding to protect their own properties – as this is their responsibility.

“We are continuing to interact with businesses in the town to discuss flood-protection measures, and we are pleased to say there is already commitment from some to make use of our discounted flood products scheme.”