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Flooding heartbreak spills over at Dingwall meeting as council chief pledges action

By Scott Maclennan

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Fresh flooding in Dingwall last week ramped up the tension ahead of a public meeting in town to discuss the issue.
Fresh flooding in Dingwall last week ramped up the tension ahead of a public meeting in town to discuss the issue.

Dingwall residents voiced their fears, concerns and heartbreak over recent flash flooding that devastated a number of homes and families in the town.

Around 50 locals turned out on a stormy Tuesday evening for a public meeting with officials, including Highland Council chief executive Donna Manson.

Having already been offered promises from council during a previous bout of flooding in 2006, they are now demanding clear action and results.

Five weeks ago, residents were again left counting the costs after parts of the town centre, the west end and even higher up areas around Tulloch Castle Drive and Docharty were deluged.

Bayne Drive less than 30 minutes after the rain started during flooding in July.
Bayne Drive less than 30 minutes after the rain started during flooding in July.

Recognising the problem, Mrs Manson wrote to those affected advising them that a flood study is under way as well as inviting them to Tuesday’s meeting.

Alongside her were the council’s flood team and community services staff, the Scottish Flood Forum, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) and the fire service.

They were told that the flooding was linked to a range of issues with contributory factors including blocked drains, debris blocking culverts and inadequate capacity in the Victorian water system.

Others alluded to alleged faults in planning and the impact of extensive house building.

Flash floods again plagued Dingwall last week.Picture: David MacMaster.
Flash floods again plagued Dingwall last week.Picture: David MacMaster.

One woman, who preferred not to be named, said: “I live near the top of Dingwall, what has caused the water to flood in my garden is all the new houses in St Andrew’s Road where they haven’t put in proper drainage. There was supposed to be two sustainable drainage systems but there is only one.

“I know it is a problem on Old Evanton Road, I know it is a problem at Mountrich, I know it is a problem coming all the way down Castlehill Road to the bottom of Bayne Drive where a few residents have been completely cut off by the rain water.”

Picking up on her point, a Craig Road resident said: “Council officials talk about alleviating the flood risk. What I want to hear is eliminate the flood risk. This lady is talking about Bayne Drive that is 400 feet higher than where I am on Craig Road so everything that passes her garden is coming into my gate.

“My house is over 100 years old and it has never flooded. In 2006 it was close, last month it was closer and on Monday it was very close and it was only avoided because I bought flood barriers and the like.”

Shona Dryburgh laid out the impact flooding has had on her as well what she expects of the council while questioning apparent inaction on flood alleviation.

“I think unanimously, everyone in this room is concerned about the future of house building. My house has been flooded three times, potentially four last night if it wasn’t for me digging ditches – four times,” she said.

“In your letter you said 'Victorian drainage', so from 2006 to 2019 why was no application submitted to Scottish Government to draw down funding - Moray did it, they have flood alleviation in Forres and Lossiemouth and Elgin, they applied.

“We want reassurances, and I think I am speaking on behalf of everybody in this room, we want reassurances that our properties won’t be flooded.

“I am not a university graduate but I know you can’t put two pound of jam in a one pound jar so with the new houses that are to go in at the back of my home - it will not work and I will be sitting here again in front of you and if my house floods again it will break me.”

Speaking after the meeting, she said talking with Mrs Manson had left her with some hope that action would be taken.

She said: “Basically I was a bit upset because I have been flooded three times, near four times last night. I was quite impressed with the chief executive the way she conducted it and I have a little bit more faith, in that things will be carried forward.”

However, another resident Michelle Wallis, whose house was flooded in the town centre was less hopeful. She said: “No one has taken ownership of any of the issues, they are saying that it was very heavy rainfall, it was a high tide, now they are saying Victorian drainage. You need to work together as adults in a real team effort because you need to take on the responsibility and take ownership and carry out imminently.

“It is good that they are coming out to meet people. It did take them 10 days to hand deliver a letter. It shouldn’t be happening, we have technologies to take care of us. This shouldn’t be happening in 2019.”

Mrs Manson vowed to return every three to four weeks until the New Year until a solution is found to the problems faced in Dingwall.

“I keep saying this and I will continue saying this - we need to listen to people and learn lessons as we are going along. I thought the community were fantastic, they shared a lot of really helpful information with us and we need to go do some work,” she said.

“I will write them on Monday and inform them about the next steps. I have heard from our officer team that there are things we can do, there are quick wins, we can look at our community services rota, there are things we can do on the burn that will alleviate things.

“But as you heard tonight there are bigger more complex challenges - what you are hearing from me is a commitment to come back every three of four weeks to December until we get this resolved.

“We have got some people there who are really able, talented and gifted, so I think some flood group to work with us would be brilliant.”

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