Jedburgh defences come in for criticism as council denies only rake averted floods

Jedburgh’s £300,000 flood defences have come in for cricisim amid claims it took a man with a rake stepping in to save the town from what could have been a devastating flood during Storm Dennis.
Alan Paxton at Skiprunning Burn in Jedburgh.Alan Paxton at Skiprunning Burn in Jedburgh.
Alan Paxton at Skiprunning Burn in Jedburgh.

Scottish Borders Council bosses installed a flood alarm and defences at the Skiprunning Burn at Larkhall in 2016.

The aim is that an alarm goes off when water in the culvert running beneath the town centre reaches a certain height, alerting council staff and shopkeepers that it could be close to overflowing.

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However, Maureen Sinclair, a solicitor with an office in Castlegate, claims that despite those defences the town was just inches of water and minutes away from a repeat of the last time the Skiprunning Burn overflowed and flooded the town centre in 2013.

“I don’t think people in the town know how close the burn came to overflowing, but it was inches away,” she said.

“They have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on the flood system there, but in the end it was somebody with a rake that stopped it from overflowing before the diggers came.

“Despite the council spending all that money on defences, they didn’t work.”

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Ms Sinclair, after having her office flooded three times in the past due to the burn overflowing, had signed up for flood alerts, as had nearby barber Alex Paxton.

“Alex thankfully asked her dad Alan to check on it for her as she was away,” she added.

“I met him there and he and the rake, without a doubt, saved Jedburgh from flooding.

“I don’t think it had been dredged in a while and it was all hedges, so he cleared the iron bars to let the water go.

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“The digger did arrive and they cleared it, but by that time Mr Paxton had got the river flowing again. It’s not their fault. The digger had to come from Hawick, but they were 15 minutes too late.

“The council should be telling us why this doesn’t work. ”

Mr Paxton added: “It was pretty close, and when there was nobody else there I just grabbed the rake and started to pull stuff out. That seemed easier thanhaving to clean up my daughter’s shop like last time it flooded.”

In December 2013, it took 40 firefighters to help clear up the damage and evacuate homes and businesses after the burn burst its banks.

The year before that, an even worse flood saw 50 businesses and homes evacuated.

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A council spokesperson insists the flood defences did work as intended, however, saying: “Immediately on receipt of a first-level alarm notification, the on-duty foreman arranges for the clearance of grilles.

“During both Storm Ciara and Storm Desmond, alarm notifications were received after debris started to block up the culvert and the necessary clearance was undertaken as promptly as possible.

“Due to the speed at which river levels were increasing during these events, a wider public warning for appropriate properties was issued, but the water level rapidly reduced once the debris was removed by digger.

“At all times, there was sufficient capacity remaining in the channel, and the bypass channel was working as per the design, allowing time for the council to respond to clear debris.

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“The council is absolutely satisfied that the scheme and associated actions operated very successfully and as designed during recent storm events.

“Flooding would certainly have occurred had the scheme not been in place.”