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COUPLE FEAR RETURN TO FLOOD-HIT HOME


Fear of ever being flooded out again is the main reason William and Isobel Stewart do not want to return to their Elgin council house ??? one couple among the 30 householders who have expressed that view, according to Moray Council. A report to councillors yesterday indicated that council tenants' unwillingness to reoccupy their houses could leave officials with an accommodation crisis, with not enough alternative housing available.

Mr and Mrs Stewart spent 20 years in Lhanbryde, before moving to Lossiemouth for a short while in 2000, and then on to Lossie Cottages in Elgin. They were there for two years before being flooded out last November.

Mrs Stewart said: "This was the first time we had been flooded out ??? the first and last."

"We had just newly decorated before the flood. We did the front and back with slabs, and had decorated inside too," she said.

Mr and Mrs Stewart filled in a form when they moved into Elgin's former residential home, Bishopmill House, following the floods, indicating that they did not want to go back.

The council is yet to give them an alternative.

Mr Stewart, 72, who has suffered from arthritis since shortly after he retired, said: "They have offered us nothing yet. We have hardly seen a councillor.

"As long as they keep us here we will be all right, but if we get a decent kind of house we will be happy to go."

As to their reason for refusing to return to their house, Mrs Stewart, 67, said: "If it flooded again, we are too old to cope.

"We have never been on the social, we have had to pay for everything.

"We lost everything in the floods. I lost all my LPs and Willie lost a Bible that his mother gave him. You can't replace that."

Mr Stewart worked for 35 years at Christie's Nurseries at Fochabers, and Mrs Stewart also worked there. They saved very little from the Lossie Cottages home, "just some boxes of china that were up in the cabinet", Mr Stewart said.

Another flood victim at Bishopmill House, Irene Smedley, was of the same opinion.

Mrs Smedley, of Kingsmills, said: "I have been there just over two years so I did not get the last flood, but I don't want another one either.

"I was in Brodie Drive, but I had arthritis and couldn't manage the stairs very well.

"I've got quite a lot of other medical problems, and I've been trying to get into sheltered housing for three years, but can't get anywhere."

Mrs Smedley said she had lost everything in the flood, as it was all on the ground floor.

She is also worried about her cat, which is in kennels at Brumley Brae in Elgin.

"He is 13, and he is happy enough up there at Brumley Brae, but he's wondering why I'm not taking him out the whole time.

"The council are paying for that as far as I'm aware, so it must be costing them a fortune because there are quite a few cats up there," she said.

Mrs Smedley filled in her form to say she did not want to go back to her flood-hit home, though she was happy enough at Bishopmill House.

"This is a great place. It is a shame to think they were going to shut it and turn it into offices.

"It would make good sheltered housing."

Yesterday's report to councillors on the community services committee said it was unlikely that there was enough housing stock to meet all requests for a transfer.

Chief housing officer Jill Stewart said: "Where permanent moves can be offered, the council will make every effort to do so.

"However, given the extent of ground-floor accommodation in the flood-affected areas, it is unlikely that it will be possible to meet all requests for a permanent move, as there is simply insufficient alternative accommodation available for relet."


ROBERT LESLIE

09:00 - 20 February 2003 - Press & Journal



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