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Tories would pull plug on ‘Sands flood scheme

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By Fiona Reid
Dumfries and West
Tories would pull plug on 'Sands flood scheme

A CONSERVATIVE run council would seek to cancel a controversial £25 million Whitesands project.

Tory group leader Councillor Graham Nicol revealed that stance during the Dumfries and Galloway Council budget setting meeting on Tuesday — ahead of May’s local council elections.
Mr Nicol said: “A decision was taken at Full Council on December 29 to go ahead with the Whitesands project.
“But the Conservative Group on the council are not happy with that, and if we were in administration it was indicated we would be looking to reverse that decision.
“However, it can’t go to committee until six months has elapsed from December 29.”
Mr Nicol explains that a proposed Conservative budget on Tuesday was forced to cost in the flood prevention and regeneration project, due to the vote to proceed.
But he said: “We strongly believe that £25 million is not value for money. Only £5 million is Dumfries and Galloway money, but the £25 million is Scottish taxpayers’ money, and we don’t feel that’s correct.”
The current Labour administration have repeatedly stated the benefits that the scheme would bring, both in terms of averting up to one-in-75-year floods from River Nith and also regenerating the Whitesands area.
However, chairman of the region’s Federation of Small Businesses Brian Sherman says many local members have concerns about the planned flood prevention and regeneration scheme, which involves the creation of a raised walkway.
Mr Sherman said: “Despite some engagement activities by the council such as public display, they feel that their concerns have not been properly listened to.
“They are not sure whether the proposed scheme would reduce the risk of flooding, whilst they fear that the construction work would disrupt their trade significantly over a long period of time.”
Describing it as ‘now looking like a landscaping project’, he is urging clearer, more transparent communications and for businesses to lodge any objections with the council before a closing date of March 15.
THE LABOUR administration say costs of an alternative rising barrier option for Whitesands stand at between £30 million and £33 million.
Deputy council leader Ted Thompson yesetrday said: “Despite their rhetoric, Tory councillors have never once voted to scrap the Whitesands regeneration project and they have voted in favour of every single penny spent on the project including in their recent budget which provided funding for the current scheme.
“What they have said publicly is they want to consider the option of a rising barrier.”
He added: “Although they have backed the current scheme, the Tories need to come clean on how they will find over £30 million for their preferred option or is their policy now just to let the Whitesand flood?”
Specialist flood prevention firm UK Flood Barriers stated in December that they ‘would not evisage’ a rising barrier approach to be greatly beyond the £9 million costing they gave in November 2014.