Man Against the Storm

By bellmannews / November 15, 2023

HIS FEAR of his home being flooded again was so powerful, a Stonehaven resident risked his life to clear a blocked drain – so said Jim Stephen at last night’s meeting of Stonehaven and District Community Council, SDCC, when the impact of Storm Babet was under discussion.

Chairman David Lawman was keen to put on the record SDCC’s thanks to Aberdeenshire Council for the tremendous amount of work done to repeatedly clear up after the storms. But, he said, There were comments to be made as the storm was a learning experience.

Choked drain not up to task

Very quickly, the performance of the Arbuthnott drain was identified as a problem. The drain is supposed to discharge near the mouth of the River Carron, but the outlet is frequently blocked with sand and shingle. Such was the situation on the first night of severe storms.

Jim Stephen said: ”A resident who had been flooded before was in distress and determined it should not happen again, and he set out to clear the drain himself.

”He was endangering his life.

”For a man to jump in the river – people were telling hime to stop – this is desperation we are looking at here,” he said.

Robin Barclay was one of a number of locals keen to share their experience of living in the area – and raise their concerns.

He said the Arbuthnott drain was not fit for purpose as its capacity was inadequate when compared to the surface area of street it served. And he showed photographs of the choked non-return outlet valve.

”There is no way this will ever open in that condition,” he said.

Mr Barclay said the drain outlet was not in a good position as the River Carron did not scour that part of the channel. He added just one tide could cover the outlet again after it had been cleared. And he called for the water in the drain to be pumped into the sewage infrastructure at the Backies.

Repeatedly, Mr Lawman pressed for councillors to hear the community’s concerns and look at how they could be addressed.

Councillor Alan Turner said he was unhappy members of the public were having to clean out the drain. He said he had asked for this task to be part of regular storm maintenance – it was cleared before the next storm event – and had also requested a review of the whole Arbuthnott drain system.

Mr Turner was a member of Stonehaven Flood Action Group prior to becoming a councillor. He reminded everyone that he lived at the seafront.

”I am a bit of a realist as the sea will come over,” he said.

”But I understand the mental health aspect of this. I saw the impact of flooding on my family. That is why I got involved – but even with the best will in the world I wish I could give you a 100% guarantee, but I can’t.”

Hoping for funding from SEPA

Discussions lasting over an hour moved on to the problem of waves overtopping. Should shingle be moved to maintain a beach defence? What was done historically? Would the Council at least acknowledge Stonehaven had problems?

Mr Turner said two of the four areas proposed by Aberdeenshire Council for consideration as national priority areas for flood risk management by SEPA were in Stonehaven- coastal flooding and the Farrochie Burn.

SEPA, he said, had one year to prepare their national priority list, and Aberdeenshire Council were waiting to hear the outcome.

He added: ”Aberdeenshire does recognise the problem. Flood schemes are a challenge, it will take time. I wish we could give a better answer but it will take time.”

Rounding up the agenda item, David Lawman said: ”You can hear the passion in everyone’s voices. People really care. Could I just ask that councillors take it away and give us some feedback about what the Council thinks.

”If you don’t admit we have a problem then you won’t start to fix it.”

Meanwhile Jim Stephen hammered his point home.

He said: ”You should not be relying on a resident, very frightened, with a spade in the middle of the night going down to dig a drain. A man visibly shaking, willing to risk his life.”

Feature image: for illustration only