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Decision day looms for Whitesands flood scheme

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
Dumfries and West
Decision day looms for Whitesands flood scheme

IT will be D-Day for the Whitesands flood defence scheme this week – as councillors decide whether to press ahead with the controversial proposals or ditch them.

Elected members are split on the long-running issue, but will be asked to make a huge decision at Wednesday’s full council meeting.

Dumfries and Galloway Council officers have drafted up four options: progress with the current flood scheme plans; terminate the project; approve a ‘gateway review’, which would allow for a further six months to investigate and evaluate all the flood defence plans; or carry out a detailed options appraisal.

If councillors vote to go ahead with the flood defence scheme, the cash-strapped council would have to find millions that were not originally budgeted for.

A report on the matter reads: “The current estimated total project cost is £37m, which is £12m above the current approved budget.

“Provided that the Scottish Government confirm 80 per cent ongoing funding support, the council would need to allocate the remaining 20 per cent of the increase (£2.4m) within the capital investment strategy.

“It is also important to recognise that estimated scheme costs have been subject to a number of revisions and that there would remain a risk of further cost increases.”

Meanwhile, if a decision was taken to scrap the project – 11 years after first being proposed – then the local authority will be more than £500,000 out of pocket.

Option three, the gateway review, would cost £75,000, while the fourth choice of an options appraisal would incur costs of £400,000.

The flood prevention scheme process began in 2012 due to a long history of flooding at the Whitesands, causing disruption and damage

to businesses and homes on the Whitesands, plus Brewery Street, Friars Vennel, Nith Place, St Michaels Street, Dockhead, Linden Grove and Welldale.

The most recent large flood event on the Nith in December 2022 was particularly disruptive to the Whitesands area, with a significant number of businesses and residential properties directly flooded or having access impacted by the floods.

Plans have continued to be developed over the years and, in 2016, the estimated overall cost was £25m. This has now risen by nearly 50 percent.

When setting their budget earlier this year, the Conservatives administration pulled the plug on further spending on the Whitesands scheme.

However, Labour councillor Linda Dorward, who called for a seminar on the scheme earlier, is concerned the region could be losing out on a huge opportunity and funding from the Scottish Government.

She said: “This confirmed scheme remains on course for Scottish Government funding; however, we have learned that this specific funding stream is time limited.

“To ensure we obtain the necessary funding we need this scheme to go ahead when this is debated at full council. If we don’t use it, we will lose it.”

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