Hawick is the largest town in the Scottish Borders. It’s also right on the meeting point of the River Teviot and Slitrig Water, which is why the current construction project in the town is so important. Hawick floods significantly all too often and protection is needed.
The Hawick Flood Protection Scheme is a fantastic example of how construction benefits society - protecting our homes, towns, and safeguarding their future. Learn about how this project was founded and the plans to improve the town, as well as celebrate its’ history.
The history of flooding in Hawick
Sitting at the confluence (junction) of the River Teviot and the Slitrig Water, Hawick is surrounded by agricultural land, perfect for the operation of its riverside mills and textile factories. The town is one of the country’s foremost textile producing towns, with a worldwide reputation for quality and design.
Unfortunately, a big part of the town’s history also involves flooding. This goes back as far as 1767, but in the more recent winter of 2015/16, Hawick was flooded twice, with hundreds of properties in the town damaged and part of a road was completely washed away.
Other significant floods have damaged homes, washing away walls and damaging roadways. The town’s famous rugby and football pitches at Mansfield Park have also been completely underwater on numerous occasions.
Experts predict that flood events are likely to become more common in the years ahead, with Hawick needing protection and preventative measures put in place soon. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), identified Hawick as being at severe risk of further flood events in the future and put the town on its priority list for action to be taken to reduce the risk.
Mclaughlin & Harvey Ltd, a construction company with offices in both Glasgow and Edinburgh (as well as other major UK cities) were appointed in May 2020 as the main works contractor for the Hawick Flood Protection Scheme. At a cost of £88m, this project is the largest to ever be undertaken in Scotland, with the scheme being broken down into four parts:
- Construction of 6km of flood defences including walls, embankment, and bridges
- Creation of a new ‘active travel network’ of traffic-free footpaths and cycleways
- Upgrading the A7 trunk road, at Commercial Road, to make it fit for new levels of traffic
- Installation of a new high-capacity wastewater pumping station within the town’s treatment works to further alleviate the risk of sewage flooding during future flood events
Funding for the project is coming from various bodies, including the Scottish Government, SBC, SUSTRANS and Scottish Water.
The designing of such a large project involved a series of flood defence measures being combined to both support and improve the town’s existing infrastructure. Improvements to bridges and footpaths as well as brand new access for the public is included, with new green space as an important feature. Many of the town’s residents felt strongly that the views of the river be as unspoilt as possible as it is such an important part of the town heritage.
The River Teviot and the Slitrig Water are both legally protected nature conservation sites. The river is home to some important fish species, including Atlantic salmon and sea lamprey. The surrounding area contains protected mammal species, such as otters, badgers, and bats, as well as a huge number of breeding birds.
That’s why an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was conducted before any construction began. Additionally, during the planning stages, statutory bodies were consulted to ensure that all relevant concerns were raised and addressed at the earliest stage. These included:
- Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH)
- The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA)
- Historic Environment Scotland (HES)
- The River Tweed Commission
These bodies will be present on-site for the duration of the construction works too.
Other vital considerations were made for noise and water quality as construction progresses. In order minimise any noise impacts, working hours from Monday to Friday are limited to 8am to 7pm, with no operations being carried out during the weekends unless in ‘exceptional circumstances.’
This project is, of course, primarily to protect Hawick from flooding and damage. However, there are also plans to enhance the town, to make it an exciting place to visit as well as live. Project Artist, Andrew Mackenzie, supported by CABN (Creative Arts Business Network), part of Live Borders, is in charge of co-ordinating a series of public art works along the route of the flood defences. Inspired by the local passion for nature, he has plenty in store.
80 large glass viewing panels, some paired up to make 5m long windows will be set into the flood walls. 30 of these will feature etchings of ‘river maps’ designed by artist Gill Russell. Scottish poet, Alec Finlay’s works will sit alongside these maps, using local language and place names that connect strongly to Hawick’s heritage.
The tributaries included in Russell’s etched maps will also be marked with the planting of a new ‘tributree’ on the bank of that particular section of the route. This is part of the promise to replace trees that must be removed during construction.
Other ideas include drawings from local schools and regular installations from local artists as time goes on. Plus, chosen by public vote, the words “slippery as a baggy up a border burn” will be set in tall letters into the existing River Teviot wall near the North Bridge in honour of Bill McLaren, ‘the voice of rugby’.
How to start a career in construction
To learn more about this exciting construction project, visit hawickfloodscheme.com where up-to-date news will be shared.
You could be working on projects just like this one with a career in construction. You can look at your options here, including learning about how to get into the industry via training, apprenticeships or work experience.
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