Councillors agreed to formally publish the Whitesands scheme in accordance with the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009, at a meeting of the of Economy, Environment and Infrastructure committee yesterday (19 December).

Members of the committee approved the Raised Walkway design in November 2015 as the preferred option to provide flood protection and regeneration for the Whitesands at a meeting after considering three options including two that contained rising barrier scheme.

Since then, the project team has been further enhancing the design and refining some of the detail.

Some positive developments in relation to the Scheme include:

  • Reduction in height of the defences – The walkway will no have a maximum height of 1.4m. Following Storm Frank and Storm Desmond, the data from these events has now been used to re-calibrate the flood output. This was the worst flood on record at the Whitesands for approx. 35 years but our modelling work shows that the proposed defences would have coped. This work has allowed us to reduce the height of the defences by approx 200mm for the majority of the length of the Scheme. SEPA undertook their own audit and review of these proposals. They have concluded that they are satisfied with the model and confirm it accurately represents the flows on the River Nith.
  • The use of demountable walling above the glass panels will provide the additional height required in the most extreme cases where flooding is a 1 in 75 year return period standard of protection.
  • The use of glass panels along the walkway will allow a permanent 1 in 25 year return period standards of protection.
  • Where there is insufficient room for the walkway there will be a combination of walls, glass panels and flood gates
  • Further meetings have been held with Historic Environment Scotland (HES) to discuss the impact of the scheme on the Devorgilla Bridge. These discussions have been very positive and HES have indicated they would be unlikely to object in principle to a flood protection scheme at the Whitesands.
  • Car parking has been expanded. All car parking on the shop side of the Whitesands will be retained. Additional spaces have been created at Dockhead and the shop side of the Whitesands. All current parking spaces at the Whitesands are being re-provisioned elsewhere and overall, there will be more parking spaces that are currently being provided.
  • Not all the properties at Welldale/Kenmure will require flood defences. Property owners that do require defences have been consulted and are generally supportive of the revised proposals.
  • A 3D computer generated model of the scheme that provides a fly-through of what the scheme will look like with additional perspectives including a walk-through, a drive-through and a simulated flood event. This has really helped to show what the Whitesands will look like once the Scheme has been completed. It has been used at the public exhibition and been made available online to raise awareness more widely. Feedback from the exhibition demonstrates their effectiveness with 85% of people saying that they helped show what the scheme will look like and 87% of people saying they knew more about the Whitesands Project following the exhibition.

Chair of the Council’s Economy, Environment and Infrastructure committee, Colin Smyth, said “The formal publication of the scheme moves the project to the next stage which is in effect the formal planning process. A huge amount of work has gone into the detailed design and what is clear is the fact the current proposals have changed almost beyond recognition from the initial suggestions being made several years ago, which included a large embankment. That’s in no small part due to the input from the public in what has been several years of consultation. The public, just like councillors, made absolutely clear we were not happy with the height of the initial design a few years ago and there were concerns over car parking. I am pleased that the Council has listened carefully and significant number of changes have since been made to the scheme which provides more free car parking spaces in the town than we currently have and the height of the defenses have been reduced significantly, with the innovative use of glass panels and a demountable wall to significantly improve the river views. In many areas, for example where the current public toilets are, the views of the river are far better than we currently have. People seem to forget that if you look down the riverside at the moment, there is a huge amount of work has gone into the detailed design and what is clear is the fact the current proposals have changed almost beyond recognition from the initial suggestions being made several years ago, which included a large embankment. That’s in no small part due to the input from the public in what has been several years of consultation. The public, just like councillors, made absolutely clear we were not happy with the height of the initial design a few years ago and there were concerns over car parking. I am pleased that the Council has listened carefully and significant number of changes have since been made to the scheme which provides more free car parking spaces in the town than we currently have and the height of the defenses have been reduced significantly, with the innovative use of glass panels and a demountable wall to significantly improve the river views. In many areas, for example where the current public toilets are, the views of the river are far better than we currently have. People seem to forget that if you look down the riverside at the moment, there is

The public, just like councillors, made absolutely clear we were not happy with the height of the initial design a few years ago and there were concerns over car parking. I am pleased that the Council has listened carefully and significant number of changes have since been made to the scheme which provides more free car parking spaces in the town than we currently have and the height of the defenses have been reduced significantly, with the innovative use of glass panels and a demountable wall to significantly improve the river views. In many areas, for example where the current public toilets are, the views of the river are far better than we currently have. People seem to forget that if you look down the riverside at the moment, there is combination of the toilet block, brick walls, bus shelters and of course cars and vans that restrict the view and the design tries to improve on the views. It is clear when people take the time to actually view the proposed scheme they recognise the changes that have been made and one of the biggest messages we hear at the moment is there has been enough talking, it’s time to get on with the scheme. It remains a disgrace that Dumfries is the largest town in Scotland that still floods on such a regular basis and our river has been neglected for so long, hidden behind a car park. The scheme builds on the success of the Dock Park and proposes to make the Whitesands an attractive place for people to visit”.

Councillors agreed that the existing allocation of council funding to the project already provides for the council’s 20% of the estimated cost and any additional council funding should only be considered if the project required to access more than 50% of a contingency £4m “risk pot”. Members agreed to receive a update report in the new year on the current scheme costings, and also to publish the detailed comparison costs for the more expensive rising barrier schemes rejected by members in November 2015, to illustrate that the preferred scheme remains the lowest cost opt.

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