A MAJOR heritage project in Innerleithen hangs in the balance following repeated attacks on an ancient sluice gate.

The damming mechanism close to Leithen Road was initially sawn through last Christmas.

And throughout the year attempted repairs have been damaged in further attacks.

The sluice gate and lade, known as the dam in Innerleithen, were introduced around two centuries ago to power the town’s mills.

Community leaders were hoping to refurbish and repair both the lade and sluice gate as part of a heritage project.

But the plans have been put on ice as the vandal attacks continue.
Ross McGinn from Innerleithen Community Council said: “This is simply criminal damage.

“If the sluice isn’t repaired there is a chance the lade will dry up and we would be left with a dried-up smelly channel running through Innerleithen.

“Many visitors to Smail’s Printworks enjoy looking out onto the dam – it won’t look so good if it is dried up.

“We are determined to have the sluice and dam restored but we can’t do anything until this vandalism stops.”

The initial attack, which happened during the last festive period, saw the timber frame cut in two by a chainsaw and part of the structure ripped from its foundations.

Resident Stuart Wilson told us: “The damage has meant no water coming down the dam.

“The town was built around the dam with many industries being powered by it at one time. We’ve contacted police, who have carried out door to door enquiries, and upped it from vandalism to criminal damage.”

Mr Wilson added that despite efforts from people in the town to fix the gate, the attacker returns each time to destroy the repairs.

One board has remained in place to allow a vital supply of water into the channel to prevent the dam silting up.

Mr Wilson added: “Its an ongoing battle to keep the dam flowing. 

“Now it’s vitally important that these needless acts of damage are stopped and those responsible are caught.”

Police Scotland said: “We treat all reports of vandalism and damage seriously and will robustly investigate whenever these offences are reported to bring those responsible to justice.

“If you have information relating to the damage caused to the dam in Innerleithen then please come forward.”

Councillor Stuart Bell said: “I’m very concerned to hear about the damage to the sluice gate at the dam in Innerleithen.

“I will be talking to police and council officers to see what can be done to rectify this, and will speak to local residents to address these concerns.”

Scottish Borders Council (SBC) said: “Officers are aware of this issue and are looking into it, having been notified of the damage by members of the Innerleithen Community Council. There is no heightened risk of flooding in the area due to the damage.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Enviornment Protection Agency (SEPA) told us: “This is not a flood defence structure. It is a structure to regulate water flows but not during high flow conditions. It is likely that this sluice would have been overwhelmed in high flow conditions and water would have found the easiest course.”