Tourism views clash at Whitesands flood inquiry

image copyrightDumfries and Galloway Council
image captionThe council has said the investment could help boost regeneration in the area

A council official has told an inquiry that a proposed £25m flood scheme could improve the "somewhat mediocre" first impressions given by a town.

Jason Syers was speaking at the ongoing hearing into the Whitesands project in Dumfries.

The inquiry, in front of a Scottish government reporter, is scheduled to run until 7 December.

The latest evidence has focused on the impact on the town centre, tourism and parking.

Mr Syres' comments come despite testimony from John Dowson of the Save Our Sands campaign who said he believed the flood scheme would have an adverse effect on tourism.

However, Mr Syers said it could improve the area and encourage more repeat visits to the town.

image captionOpponents have criticised the cost of the scheme and its impact on parking and views

Mr Dowson told the hearing he felt little effort had been made to consult with town centre traders.

"The council have never properly addressed the issue of tourist buses visiting Dumfries," he added.

"They have failed to make a provision which will encourage tourist buses - this is a massive failed opportunity in this design."

He said that anyone arriving in the town would have river views blocked by the proposed barrier.

"This is no way to welcome tourists," he said.

image copyrightDumfries and Galloway Council
image captionThe council has argued the scheme could actually improve the visitor experience to the town

He also raised concerns about compensation and claimed many small firms could be driven out of business.

However, Mr Syers, representing Dumfries and Galloway Council, said provision would be made to help any shops affected.

In addition, he said that rather than reducing the attractiveness of the area it would actually "lift the whole aesthetic".

"A better quality space attracts more visitors and, moreover, attracts repeat visitors," he said.

'Riverside facade'

He added it could also help to lift the "spectre of flooding" from the town.

"The Whitesands design will not eliminate the flood risk but it will significantly reduce it," he said.

In addition he said it would improve the whole "riverside facade".

The proposed defence project is based on a "raised walkway" concept with a combination of walls, glass panels and flood gates providing flood protection.

The inquiry will ultimately decide whether to take the scheme forward, modify it or abandon it entirely.

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