Edinburgh flooding: Canonmills business owners take legal advice after second major flood event in 10 months amid fears they could be uninsurable

Business owners in Canonmills are taking legal advice after their premises were hit by a second major flood event in less than a year despite previous warnings to the council about drainage capacity.

Monday, 5th July 2021, 4:45 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th July 2021, 12:49 pm

Six ground floor apartments in the Canon Court ApartHotel were affected following Sunday’s heavy downpour while an oak flooring reception area inside the building, previously replaced after flooding in August 2020, was wrecked again. The lift shaft was also damaged for a second time along with CCTV equipment.

Co-owner Matt Hansen said: “We can not continue to have this every year. We have literally replaced all of the flooring and now we have to do it again. Last year we were quoting about £20,000 of damage and this year it may be a little more. It’s significantly worse than it was last year.

“Some of our clients managed to barricade the doors with duvets and pillows so they bailed us out.

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Some of the flood damage inside.
Some of the flood damage inside.

“We are taking legal advice to see if we are able to pursue the council for damages. I would like to see a report on what upgrades and maintenance has been carried out since last year.

“Last time round we put a claim in and our premiums went up by 20 percent. It might get to the point where we are uninsurable.”

Johnny Bacigalupo, owner of neighbouring Napier Bathrooms, said the flood water was ankle deep inside his shop on Sunday and that the drain and gully network became overwhelmed “within seconds” of the downpour.

High demand for sandbags meant driving to Sighthill to get some as the nearest fire station had run out. Staff members and neighbours also helped him scoop and sweep out the water for several hours.

Floodwater inside the Canon Court ApartHotel. Pictures: Matt Hansen

Mr Bacigalupo described the flooding as the “exact same chaos” experienced in August last year, and repeated his previous calls for Edinburgh City Council to upgrade the local drainage network while highlighting the recent building of more properties in the area.

Mr Bacigalupo said: “I’ve had the business in Canonmills since 2004 but it’s only in the last year this has been happening.

“I worry I might not get insurance in future. It’s acknowledged that we are on a water table and we know there is an issue but we have had two devastating floods now in one year. I know there has been a large rainfall but surely the city council knows that might happen, so instead of spending millions on ridiculous cycle lanes for Spaces for People, spend money on the infrastructure of the city. What are the council doing for us? Where are they?”

Mr Bacigalupo also called police on Sunday because part of the road in nearby Canon Street had broken up, posing a danger to drivers.

As well as flooded roads, trains in and out of Edinburgh were also stopped while homes and businesses across the Capital were affected, placing huge pressure on local fire crews.

Video footage and pictures shared online showed some streets turning to rivers in areas such as Stockbridge.

Scottish Greens environment spokesperson, Mark Ruskell, said: “The capital is just the latest flashpoint where the climate crisis is having an impact on Scotland’s infrastructure as extreme weather events become more and more common.

“We’ve seen dangerous landslips disrupt rail and road infrastructure, canals have burst their banks and we have seen flooded streets like those seen in Edinburgh at the weekend in the South of Scotland too.

“The events are a reminder that we need to deal with both sides of the climate crisis, by going further and faster to cut emissions while stepping up adaptation plans. Using natural solutions such as tree planting and floodplains can absorb the high rainfall peaks protecting towns and villages downstream, but there is a lack of coordination and specific funding to deliver these approaches at scale.”

‘Sudden, extreme weather’

The local authority said up to 37mm of rain – around half of the total average rainfall for the month of July – fell in less than an hour on Sunday.

Roads and flood prevention teams worked throughout the night to respond to surface water and flooding and to monitor river flows.

The council said the city’s gullies are cleared as part of a rolling programme and that more than 10,500 gullies have been cleaned since March.

They described the intense rainfall on Sunday as “extremely rare” and exceeds the capacity of roads and drainage and sewage systems, though acknowledged it is “becoming more frequent as weather patterns change."

Councillor Lesley Macinnes, Transport and Environment convener, said: “On Sunday, we experienced sudden, extreme weather – around half of the average rainfall for the whole of July fell in one hour. In situations like these, with the best will in the world, it’s impossible to avoid localised flooding.

“Not only is it not possible to predict such sharp downpours but our drainage system, along with the sewerage system maintained by Scottish Water, is simply not designed to cope with this. The fact water subsided after the rain eased demonstrates it wasn’t down to blockages but rather the fact drains were beyond capacity. In many instances gullies were also overcome by surcharging sewers – another sign that this was an effect of unusually intense water levels.

“We’re not used to this intensity of weather but, unfortunately, it seems to be becoming more frequent as climate change effects intensify. Our sympathies are with those whose properties have been affected and our teams are continuing to work tirelessly to minimise the impact on the city’s roads and to monitor river flows - our roads team clear gullies throughout the year and just completed cleaning the city’s most sensitive gullies. We’re now also developing a water management plan to identify the areas most at risk of flooding, and to consider what kinds of mitigating action we can take.”

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