THE floodgates have reopened on a major restoration project at an ancient sluice in Innerleithen.

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

But plans for a major heritage restoration were left high and dry in 2016 after repeated vandal attacks.

On one occasion, the timber frame was cut in two with a chainsaw and part of the structure ripped from its foundations.

But community leaders this week welcomed plans to resurrect the project.

Chairman of the Community Trust, Ross McGinn, told us: “This is a long-standing issue after some criminal damage was done to the sluice and led to it being washed away.

“It needs to be replaced but that has been on hold to be sure the criminal activity will no longer be a problem.”

Innerleithen Community Trust is now looking into funding for the restoration and repairs.

Mr McGinn added: “There is widespread support for this in the community given the importance of the lade in our history."

Councillor Stuart Bell (SNP, Tweeddale East) said: "There has been some controversy over the flow of water along the lower part of the dam through Innerleithen.

"This has come to a head since the sluice gate was vandalised – diverting the flow out of the dam and into the Leithen Water.

"I welcome the fact that council flood protection staff have taken the trouble to contact as many of those directly affected, and an overwhelming majority have indicated that they want to see the dam flowing again.

"I understand that the Community Development Trust will continue their maintenance support – so councillors are now investigating a source of funding to get the sluice gate permanently repaired.”

Recent flood risk studies carried out by Scottish Borders Council indicated that the lade and sluice posed no flood risk to the community.