Cold water poured on flood defences

EVEN the soldiers’ frantic sandbagging wasn’t enough to cope with the sudden rush of water. The torrential rain had just been too much for the small culvert at the Braid Burn.

The burn burst its banks, flowed into Redford Road and gushed almost a mile down Colinton Road. Despite the efforts of the squaddies drafted in from the nearby barracks, dozens of homes were flooded with cold dirty water, damaging properties to the tune of millions of pounds, and devastating lives.

Patients’ records at a doctor’s surgery were destroyed, a Porsche dealership was submerged in water and hundreds of people were left temporarily homeless.

So it is not difficult to understand why the residents of Edinburgh’s leafy suburb of Colinton - as well as those affected elsewhere throughout the city - are desperate to avoid another flooding disaster like that incident in April 2000.

Which is why Edinburgh City Council drew up a 150,000 emergency plan to ensure the culvert on Redford Road is able to cope should the Braid Burn overflow again.

Yet, a year on, nothing has happened . . . except a bitter war between neighbours, allegations of threatening behaviour, and accusation and counter-accusation between the council and the Scottish Executive about just who is dragging their feet on the whole issue.

The council says the hold-up has been caused by the objections of just one couple in the area, Richard and Kay Linton. The two lawyers - who live on the Redford House Estate, where most homes have been unaffected by the floods - have complained that the emergency work is unnecessary and will affect their property.

The council’s plan is to install two overflow pipes next to the culvert - which is in their garden - which would channel water underneath the road. But the Lintons say that the plan would only move the problem elsewhere and have objected.

aS a result, no work has taken place and neighbours of the Lintons are furious. In October, when heavy rains threatened to engulf homes with flood waters once again, there were allegations that the Lintons had been threatened by angry residents. And it doesn’t take much probing in the area to discover the depth of feeling.

"It doesn’t even affect them, and they’re stopping the flood work going ahead," says one man, who refuses to be named.

Another Colinton resident, who preferred not to be named, says she cannot understand why the couple are objecting to work which could protect hundreds of people from further flooding.

"When they come out of their drive every day, they must see the sandbags that are still lying in Redford Road. I would think they would have a conscience about that."

Duncan Campbell, of the Colinton Amenity Association, says residents are becoming increasingly frustrated. "The residents who were flooded out the last time are extremely concerned at having to live under the threat of another flooding event.

"It very nearly happened again last month, and it was only the council’s emergency action, using pumps and sandbags, which ensured that another flood was prevented, but it was a very close shave."

He adds that most people are unclear as to why objections have been lodged. "One has every right to object to a particular scheme. In a democracy, one needs to respect that right. But it’s taking a heck of a time to resolve this issue."

The stalemate has been referred to the Scottish Executive, where Transport Minister Iain Gray will decide if the Lintons’ objection is valid. Unless a decision is made quickly, the council warns that the entire flood prevention scheme for the Braid Burn could take years to implement and, in the meantime, flooding could happen again.

Local councillor and Conservative group chairman Brian Meek is particularly frustrated by the delay in decision-making by the Scottish Executive.

"I am irritated beyond belief that the Executive has taken more than 11 months to deal with these objections," he says. "Either they are valid or they are not. If they say they are, then the council will have to think again. It seemed to me that the council had a good plan to take the water under the road at Redford, and I want to see that plan implemented as soon as possible.

"I take the view that people are absolutely entitled to protest in a democracy, but shouldn’t there be some sort of time limit on this? Are we still going to be sitting here in three years’ time?

"My position is quite clear - I just want the matter resolved, because if the objections are valid then we will have to come up with another scheme."

Councillor Meek, who drafted in the Army to sandbag the area in 2000, adds that many residents are "living in considerable fear" because of the risk of another flood.

"I am genuinely concerned for the people who live in the area. We were flooded out twice in two years. The first time, people were rescued in boats, and the second time, people had to be out of their homes for six months while they were repaired from the flood damage."

However, Executive sources have told the Evening News that a second couple have since objected to the scheme following a mail shot in Colinton about the issue - organised by Cllr Meek. They also claim that delays in receiving responses from the council - including one of up to 70 days - have contributed to the problem of resolving the issue.

aspokeswoman for Mr Gray, who is also the local MSP, says: "We are doing everything in our power to bring this matter to a speedy conclusion but we are dependent on the council and the objectors’ representatives to respond quickly."

Now there are fears that the Lintons’ objection could end up delaying the entire flood prevention scheme for the Braid Burn, which is supposed to start in October next year.

"No formal objections can yet be lodged on the Braid Burn Flood Protection Scheme, which extends from Colinton to Portobello, as the proposals have not yet been published," says a council spokeswoman.

"They are due to be submitted to the Scottish Executive in January 2003. Thereafter, there will be a three-month period during which formal objections can be considered.

"We have been widely consulting with the communities involved on the designs for the scheme. These have been well received, and the team has already been able to incorporate much of the feedback into the design proposals.

"If a single valid objection is lodged which the council is unable to satisfy, a public inquiry will be called. This can delay the scheme for up to two years.

"As an interim measure, we have tried to alleviate the problem of flooding at Redford Road. This scheme involves installing overflow pipes above the culvert. This would mean that if the culvert was blocked or was unable to cope with the volume of water, that water would have another pass - this would stop Redford Road from flooding.

"A formal objection to this roads scheme was lodged in January 2002. The matter is currently with the Scottish Executive. Until a decision has been made on this formal objection, the scheme cannot go ahead."

Mr Linton insisted there was "misunderstanding" about the objection he and his wife have lodged, and it is understood they believe the temporary measures would just move the flooding problem elsewhere.

"We said to the council that we had no intention of conducting a negotiation or a fight with them through the media. That’s more than can be said for the council or its councillors.

"There isn’t an understanding in the community and among local councillors as to why we are objecting. We have absolutely no intention of making anything take longer. We are objecting to the interim measures because we think they are wrong.

"Just because people think and speak badly of you doesn’t mean to say you should change your mind."

An energetic challenge is just the job

A NEW renewable energies supremo has been appointed for Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Richard Witney is the new Scottish Community Renewables Initiative development officer, funded by the Scottish Executive, with a brief to boost local community involvement in small-scale renewable energy developments.

According to SCRI, Scotland has the potential to meet its peak winter electricity demand ten times over from renewable sources such as solar, wind, hydro and geo-thermal power. And Mr Witney is one of eight officers appointed to take up the cause.

He said: "In Scotland, we already generate 14 per cent of our electricity from renewable sources.

"The Scottish Executive has set a target of raising this to 18 per cent by 2010, and community and household renewable energy projects will now be able to make a real contribution to this target."

Club investment is a sound one

A FIFE folk club will celebrate its third birthday next month with a new sound system.

MSP Helen Eadie will unveil the new system at the Dalgety Bay Folk Club on December 6 after a 2515 grant from the Scottish Arts Council.

Club chairman Colin Hay said: "We are most grateful to the Scottish Arts Council for this grant, which will enable us to promote folk music within the local community."

The sound system will be launched at the Dalgety Bay Sailing Club on December 6 from 8pm.

Tickets cost 5 for members and 6 for guests.

Music school opens doors to parents

CHILDREN with a passion for music are being invited to go along to an open day at a top Capital music school.

The City of Edinburgh Music School, which is based at Broughton High School in Carrington Road, is opening its doors to prospective students and their parents tomorrow from 11am to 2pm.

People are invited to go along to the event where they can speak to tutors and current pupils as well as hear the music students playing tunes.

A spokeswoman for the school said: "It is a very informal day and gives people the chance to find out what we are all about."

The school, which is one of Scotland’s leading specialist music schools, is funded by the Scottish Executive and does not charge fees for attending.

It has a successful track record and only last week it announced that one of its students has won a scholarship to attend one of the world’s top music colleges in Boston in the United States.

Maeve Gilchrist, 16, from Portobello, a pianist and clarsach player, is set to study at the renowned Berklee College.