South Scotland

Oliver Mundell raises Whitesands flood scheme fears

Whitesands Image copyright Dumfries and Galloway Council
Image caption Official adoption of the flood protection plans has been agreed

An MSP has raised fears that funds for a flood protection scheme in Dumfries could be spent on "ill-thought-out landscape gardening".

Oliver Mundell asked local government minister Kevin Stewart to meet with "worried businesses" in the town.

He accused Dumfries and Galloway Council of "arrogance" in the way it had engaged with the community.

Mr Stewart said consultation was currently under way and anyone unhappy with the plans should take part.

The estimated cost of the Whitesands project has risen to £25m from between £15m and £17.5m.

Mr Mundell, who represents Dumfriesshire, said that businesses were getting "increasingly angry" about the way the scheme was being handled.

'Legitimate concerns'

"They believe that the council has ignored legitimate concerns in order to railroad through its deeply unpopular proposals under the guise of flood defences," he said.

"Given the widespread concern, will the minister commit to meeting with worried businesses in the town?

"Can he clarify that all Scottish government funding for the project will go towards flood prevention and not ill-thought-out landscape gardening and streetscaping?"

Mr Stewart said he appreciated there was opposition to the scheme and it had also been raised by fellow MSP Joan McAlpine.

"The key thing is the responsibility of Dumfries and Galloway Council in this regard," he said.

"A statutory process must be undertaken before a proposed flood protection scheme can be confirmed.

"The process provides an opportunity for objections to the proposed scheme to be lodged, and the local authority is obliged to seek to address objections."

'Quality space'

He said he understood that the council started the statutory process on 1 February and that the consultation period closed on 1 March.

"I urge folks who are unhappy with the scheme to respond to the consultation," he said.

"If objections remain that cannot be resolved, the scheme must be referred to the Scottish ministers, who will decide whether to call in the proposals for their consideration.

"That is the only stage of the process at which the Scottish government plays a direct role. I urge Mr Mundell to continue to engage with Dumfries and Galloway Council on the issue."

The council has described it as "unacceptable" that the largest town in the region continues to flood.

In addition to protection from the River Nith, it has said the project could create a "high-quality public open space" to encourage the use of the Whitesands.

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