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Public will never agree on Whitesands project, say officials

Section:  Dumfries and West  | Tags: , , , , , ,

CONSENSUS from the public on the controversial £25 million Whitesands project is ‘unlikely’ say council officials.

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And opponents of the scheme say this now puts the local SNP group in a difficult position, after pledging before the election to ensure any Whitesands project taken forward has ‘full public support’.

A report to councillors next Tuesday says 345 formal objections were filed against the £25 million flood prevention and regeneration scheme, with one subsequently withdrawn.

And it said: “Following analysis of the objections received it is considered that no new issues have arisen which have not already been addressed so far as it is considered feasible to do so by way of modification as well as provision of information, such that objections will persist and it is unlikely that a consensus will ever be reached for such a major project.”

The report says ‘it is on this basis’ that councillors are recommended to confirm the scheme without modifications and trigger the next stages leading either to a Public Local Inquiry (PLI) or a Public Hearing.

However, Save Our Sands campaigner John Dowson notes the pledge by former SNP leader Andy Ferguson before local elections which resulted in coalition with Labour.

Noting the scheme must first be confirmed at a vote on Tuesday in order to progress to a PLI, Mr Dowson said: “Rob Davidson’s SNP Group will be asked to vote for a scheme that has 345 objections and where his officers say a consensus can’t be reached.”

Councillor Davidson says a coalition has seen compromise from both parties.

He says SNP councillors will vote to confirm the scheme on Tuesday in order to take it to public inquiry, allowing ‘all the issues to be weighed up by a process which is independent of the council’.

But he said: “The agreement we have with our administration partners is that we implement the outcome of the PLI.”

Challenged that a public inquiry will only consider whether objections to the scheme are legitimate, and not seek to establish any consensus or gauge the scheme’s popularity, Councillor Davidson added: “We didn’t win the election. If we had been in a position where we were controlling the administration outright, we’d probably be in a slightly different situation. That’s the reality of where we are.”

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