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Whitesands flood scheme rescued

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By Newsdesk
Dumfries and West
Whitesands flood scheme rescued

THE controversial Whitesands flood protection scheme – which was dangerously close to being sunk – was rescued this week after an unexpected victory by opposition councillors.

The council’s Conservative administration attempted to ditch the project, having already cut it out of their budget plans earlier this year due to its rising costs.

However, Lochar Labour Councillor Linda Dorward made a strong case to save the Whitesands flood defence scheme at Wednesday’s full council meeting, which received the backing of several independent councillors and swung the vote 22-21 in her favour.

Ms Dorward said: “We’re now in a climate emergency. I appreciate that the Tories don’t share this perspective – as they have shifted goalposts here by some years.

“But the Labour Group are not prepared to do this when it comes to defending the town of Dumfries from flooding.”

She stressed the Scottish Government’s offer of 80 per cent funding for the scheme is time limited and needs a response asap, adding: “Never again will we have such an opportunity to invest so much at one time in our town.

“We all know that, if we don’t progress this confirmed scheme, we will leave Dumfries without any flood protection for the foreseeable future. In essence, we use it or we lose it.”

The Whitesands is one of the most regularly flooded urban areas in Scotland, Ms Dorward argued. It has been reported that there have been 205 incidents since 1827 – the worst being last year on December 30.

Conservative Councillor Ivor Hyslop, who also represents Lochar ward, said: “There is no money to do this job, and I think later this year the Scottish Government will have to come to terms with this.”

Council leader Gail Macgregor added that she wasn’t convinced either that the funding for the flood protection scheme would be made available by the Scottish Government in next year’s budget.

A report for the meeting, stated that the current estimated total project cost is £37m, which is £12m above the current approved budget.

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

Cllr Dorward yesterday said she was ‘delighted’ with the decision and added: “A confident, ambitious council investing in local infrastructure projects, sets the right tone and will attract investment from other sectors, for Dumfries town and our region. I believe this is just the beginning of the regeneration of this region.”

Meanwhile, a former council leader has lodged a formal complaint about the ‘inadequacy of information’ on the flood scheme in the meeting report.

John Dowson, of Dumfries, claims the current chief executive, Dawn Roberts, had a duty to “ensure the professionalism and accuracy” of the report prior to it being discussed by councillors.

He said: “The outcome of this meeting is a town changing decision involving around £40 million of taxpayer money to build a flood solution that very few townspeople want to see.”

Mr Dowson says the vote result will cause massive division locally and that the whole issue has compromised the council’s commitment to openness, transparency, and accountability.

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