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Councillors back flats plan despite flood concerns

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
Dumfries and West
Councillors back flats plan despite flood concerns

AN office block which looks onto the Whitesands will likely be converted into flats for let after flood risk warnings were considered minimal.

The benefits of transforming a vacant space and developing town centre housing outweighed a very small risk of flooding at the property, councillors concluded last week.

At Dumfries and Galloway Council’s planning committee, L Murray Property Ltd submitted a planning application for changing the use of the old office/storage space at 12 Whitesands and converting the first floor into a three-bedroom flat and the second floor into a two-bedroom property. The ground floor is currently occupied by a dance school.

The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency lodged an objection, arguing that the development “increases vulnerability” to flooding at the site.

The council’s flood risk management team also objected due to historical records which showed flooding near to the proposed site.

At last week’s meeting, case officer Claire Ingram told councillors SEPA had confirmed that they hold ‘multiple record’ for this area, including flood events in 1993, 2009, 2012, 2019, 2020, and 2022.

She added: “These are areas of flooding – and includes the streets surrounding the building.”

However, Homer Young, an agent for the applicant, argued that the location of the building at 12 Whitesands has not been affected by floods.

He told the committee: “During the most recent substantial flooding event on December 30, 2022, little or no water entered the property on the ground floor level.

“The flood risk management team note that the authority holds records of historical flooding close to the proposed site, but not directly outwith.”

Mr Young also underlined that the council’s own policies, particularly for upper floor properties that are under-utilised, “encourages the retention and redevelopment of housing and other complementary town centre uses.”

He added: “Flooding in this area is a widely known issue, however the application is purely for a change of use of an existing building, with no alteration or extension – therefore no increase in flood risk elsewhere would be created.

“The proposed residential units are to be created on the first and second floors and would not be at a direct risk of flooding.”

It was also explained that the applicant proposes to install flood defence systems in any case.

Nith Councillor David Slater said: “I propose that this application goes ahead because I don’t see any major problems with it.

“It’s very rare that water will actually reach the premises anyway, and this also plays a part in regenerating our town.

“If you can’t get people into commercial premises, and you can make it into living premises, I think this is a very good move.”

Councillors agreed to notify the Scottish Ministers of the council’s intention to grant planning permission. The Scottish Government will now have the final say on the application.

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