We warned builder of risk days before Colonies flood

Firefighters help pump water out from the Colony flats. Picture: Kate Chandler
Firefighters help pump water out from the Colony flats. Picture: Kate Chandler
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A HOMEOWNER in the flood-hit Stockbridge Colonies has told how he warned contractors of the risk days before the Water of Leith burst its banks.

Colin Speight, who owns a property in Kemp Place, and his wife, a flood response manager for a humanitarian charity, approached staff at Lagan Construction, which is working on an £11.5 million flood defence scheme.

The couple highlighted how sandbags could be easily washed away and said the removal of an old wall should not have taken place until a new one was erected.

Mr Speight said: “My wife mentioned just last week to one of the foremen that the sandbags near the new bridge would be far too easily washed away. She has managed major flood responses around the world and does actually know what she is talking about, but her concerns were arrogantly and patronisingly dismissed.

“We insisted the removal of our garden wall should be postponed until the new wall was complete, or at least until the temporary defences could be strengthened, but clearly we were ignored.

“Lagan are refusing to answer any of my e-mails or phone calls, and their ‘no comment’ strategy is despicable.”

The couple, who moved to Malawi just before the downpours wreaked havoc, have rented out their property and only found out about the flood damage late last week.

Other Colonies residents have blamed Lagan for not responding properly to weather warnings. Alison Differ, 29, of Glenogle Terrace, said: “Lagan had 24 hours’ notice of heavy rain. All the local residents knew there could be flooding yet there were no pumps in place until lunchtime. The temporary wall of sandbags was never going to withstand the flood of water.”

Dr Stephen Jones, of Dunrobin Place, agreed that the response had been slow. He said: “The fault of flooding in the streets is entirely at Lagan’s door. They put all their eggs in one basket expecting that the temporary sandbag wall would hold. It didn’t, and by the time their men showed up the water was in and the damage done.”

More than 30 homes were affected after the Water of Leith burst its banks and many residents are in temporary accomodation as they wait for insurers to inspect their properties.

However, Mr Speight said he was in no doubt that Lagan should pay for the cost of the damage. He said: “This is unequivocally an issue for Lagan’s insurers to resolve, not for each resident to chase up with their own insurance company.”

No-one at Lagan was available for comment, but a city council spokesman said: “We are investigating the circumstances of last weekend’s flooding incident. It would not be appropriate to comment 
further at this time.”

Irish firm Lagan Construction successfully bid for the flood prevention contract in January 2011. The 21-month job, which began in March, was scheduled to concentrate on areas most vulnerable to a repeat of the 2000 floods which caused £25m of damage and hit 500 properties after the river burst its banks at Stockbridge, Bonnington and Canonmills.