Welcoming the inquiry into Dumfries and Galloway Council’s controversial £25 million prevention and regeneration scheme, depute leader Cllr Rob Davidson said: “I am pleased that the Scottish Ministers have confirmed that they are calling in the scheme for consideration.
“In their letter to the council, Scottish Government officials confirmed that a public local inquiry would provide an opportunity for a fresh consideration of the project through an external, independent process.”
He added: “We believe the Whitesands should have a flood protection scheme but it has to be the right scheme and an inquiry will ensure that happens.”
Campaigners against the scheme say they expect the inquiry to be ‘vastly’ more expensive than the £250,000 probe into DG One leisure centre.
But John Dowson from Save Our Sands Car Parks and River Views said: “We certainly feel that, to some extent, it’s the best option for the objectors.
“We would not have been happy with a local inquiry because that would have been totally controlled by the council.
“This way at least we’ve got Government intervention and much more confidence in that approach.”
But he added: “Of course, we would have been happier if the whole scheme had been thrown out.”
Mr Dowson says the campaign group are now seeking £20,000 from the council under community engagement policy which they would use to obtain planning, engineering and legal advice for objectors — arguing the local authority will be able to draw upon those resources.
He said: “The council have a duty to remove the barriers to our group to allow us to effectively participate in the inquiry.”
And aware that objectors may feel intimidated about being asked to express their views formally, Mr Dowson added: “Myself and David Slater will both happily sit down and meet with people to help give initial support and guidance abot what happens at the public inquiry.
“But ultimately this is another reason why we need the funding to make sure they get professional support as well.”