Members of Dumfries and Galloway Council's Nithsdale Area Committee discussed the feedback from the recent public consultation on the Whitesands Project at their meeting yesterday (2 September). The feedback from the public will also go before the next meeting of Council's Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee on 15 September where Councillors will be asked to agree a way forward for the Project including agreeing to further public consultation.
Speaking at the Area Committee meeting, Councillor Colin Smyth who Chairs the Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee said "The report before the Area Committee is very helpful because it outlines yet again that alternatives such as dredging and flooding upstream have been thoroughly investigated and unfortunately don't provide a solution. It also dispels some of the unhelpful myths that have been banded around such as false claims there would be no public toilets, less parking or that the plan affects the listed part of the Devorgilla bridge.
We can now get down to a serious debate on the how to resolve the issue that concerns the public most, which is the simple fact that the height of the defences in the draft proposal that went out to public consultation are too high . A lot of work has been done over the past few months to come up with solutions to this and that will form the basis of the report to councillors on 15 September. However, I think it is vital that the public are consulted fully on the proposed amendments to the scheme and I hope that's what councillors agree to do. I think a way forward is achievable but that will require compromise . I believe the alternative options will deliver that compromise as far as the council is concerned but it remains to be seen if opponents are prepared to be as open minded. I don't think the council will keep everyone happy because there are some people who will criticise whatever is proposed as they don't want to see a solution and they will do everything they can to stop a way forward being found. However, I think the vast majority of the public understand that some form of barrier is needed if the flooding is to be stopped and more significantly agree that if we are to go ahead with a proposal it needs to stop the flooding in a way that doesn’t detract from the views of the river and also regenerates the riverside to make it a far more appealing place for people to visit.".
Following the meeting Councillor Smyth criticised the SNP for claiming in a press statement to have achieved agreement towards finding a compromise .
Councillor Smyth added, "The report that will come before Councillors on 15 September has been months in the development. It's a bit of an insult to the intelligence of local people for the SNP to claim that a report that has already been written and which will outline a way forward with a options to amend the original scheme is only happening because the SNP said it should a couple of days before the report is published. People will see through such cynical and childish politics and I hope the SNP will grow up and focus on supporting the forward that deals with the biggest concerns the public have."