Controversy has surrounded the planned flood prevention and regeneration scheme in Dumfries, with thousands having signed a petition opposing the project which is now set to take the form of a raised earthen walkway, a wall and transparent panelling next to River Nith.
And it has emerged that Nith councillor Elaine Murray told a campaigner that Labour support for the project during the election campaign ‘probably cost us votes’.
However, this week as the newly-appointed leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council, she said: “The Labour group of councillors continues to consider the proposed scheme to be the correct one for Dumfries to protect properties from flooding and also to encourage the regeneration of the Whitesands area and Dumfries town centre.
“We consistently maintained this position throughout the council election period and nothing has changed.
“However, we are content to ask the Scottish Government to hold a public enquiry, which the Government would fund, to give the public another opportunity to express their views through a mechanism that will be entirely independent of the council.”
A public enquiry by the Scottish Government had seemed likely, after a number of formal submissions opposing the scheme as passed by the council.
Rob Davidson from the SNP is council depute leader, and said: “In our manifesto, the SNP committed to revisit the Whitesands scheme.
“We believe that the best way of doing this is through an independent public enquiry, to which the public will be encouraged to give evidence, and the outcome of which would have legal standing.”
Mr Davidson has pledged to then implement the enquiry’s findings.
Speaking in March, then SNP Group leader Andy Ferguson said the public would be consulted after the statutory process concluded, and said: “Our commitment is this: whatever the majority response is, that is what we will deliver.”
Save Our Sands campaigner David Slater says he has heard suggestions of between 300 and 400 objections to the scheme.
Reacting to the coalition stance, he said: “If it goes to public enquiry, hopefully the people will get a chance to speak and put their views across.”