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Whitesands recall bid

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By Fiona Reid
Dumfries and West
Whitesands recall bid

A LAST-DITCH attempt by councillors to challenge the £25 million Whitesands scheme has proved successful.

Twelve signatures were needed to bring the flood prevention and regeneration project back for further scrutiny at Full Council — with 13 out of the total 47 councillors stepping forward to sign their names.
Leader of the Dumfries and Galloway Independent Group Councillor Ian Carruthers said: “It’s a clear message for the council that there’s a desire to look again at this whole Whitesands.”
At a meeting of the environment committee on Monday, Councillor Carruthers had appealed for a delay on greenlighting the project until after the council elections in May.
Instead, councillors voted to sign off on the project by 12 votes to five.
But noting public doubts over the project, which has included a petition with more than 10,000 signatures, Councillor Carruthers said: “The whole purpose of a councillor is to represent the constituents that they’ve been elected in to represent.
“In real terms, if you look at the Dumfries councillors, I’d be walking around with my head hung low voting for a project that the local community doesn’t want.”
Councillor Carruthers notes the raised earthen walkway scheme being taken forward was presented to councillors in 2015 with a price tag of about £15 million.
But he said: “The costings are now nearer £25 million, and that’s a material difference.
“We need to come back and revisit the three options that are there.”
At at that time, two alternate approaches involving a self-rising flood barrier were rejected, with the argument that they would be too costly.
Construction consultants McGowan Miller had costed a self-rising barrier built into the river wall at £22 million to £26.1 million and one five metres back at £15.8 million to £22.3 million.
Flood specialists UK Flood Barriers had proposed and costed a self-rising barrier for the Sands at £9 million.
And this week the firm backed CEO Frank Kelly’s original figure, when he said: “There’s no way it’d be £18 million to £26 million. I said £9 million, and it’s £9 million.”
The Labour administration have branded the latest development a ‘silly stunt’ that could cost Dumfries £20 million of Government funding.
Claiming an extra cost of £25,000 for each week the scheme is delayed due to three per cent construction inflation, and claiming the move delays publication of the final plans, Councillor Ted Thompson said: “It is disappointing that some councillors clearly don’t want the public to see the actual detailed scheme.”
And he argues that the increasing costs do not impact on the £5 million required from the council to fund the scheme.
He said: “They also know perfectly well that the alternative schemes that they previously rejected will cost millions more than the preferred option, so it’s clear this has nothing to do with funding and is little more than a silly stunt to get publicity.”

 
COUNCILLORS signing up to call for a delay to the project are:
Dumfries and Galloway Independent Group’s Graham Bell, Ian Carruthers, Karen Carruthers, Peter Diggle, Jack Groom and Roberta Tuckfield, Dumfries and Galloway Conservative and Unionist Council Group’s Doug Fairbairn, Gail Macgregor, Ian Blake, Graham Nicol, the Independent Group’s Marion McCutcheon, the SNP Group’s Andrew Wood and independent councillor Yen Hongmei Jin.

 

A SPECIAL meeting of the Full Council has been called next Thursday — to tackle a call from elected members for a halt to progress on the Whitesands scheme.
The next scheduled Full Council meeting was February.
And Independent Group councillor Ian Carruthers says he believes the move is a bid by the Labour administration to quash the challenge and keep the £25 million project on track to beat next May’s council elections.
Speaking as news broke late yesterday afternoon that council leader Ronnie Nicholson had called the meeting, Councillor Carruthers said: “This is trying to rush the whole thing through for their own political gain.”
He added: “I can only think it’s an ego trip or a political trip.”
Critical of the arrangements involved in organising a special meeting which will take place at Council Headquarters in English Street next Thursday December 29 at 10 am, Councillor Carruthers said: “I think it’s horrendous, the extra costs they’re laying on the public purse — especially when we’re under the financial constraints as it stands at the moment.”

 

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