Dumfries flood scheme's lengthy battle finally concludes

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Devorgilla BrigImage source, Dumfries and Galloway Council
Image caption,
The Scottish government has said the project can proceed

Almost every time heavy rainfall hits Scotland, the Whitesands in Dumfries enjoys its 15 minutes of flooding fame.

However, a public inquiry has now ruled a defence project in the area can proceed.

Could it finally mean the end of soggy scenes from the south of Scotland?

How long has it taken?

Image caption,
Flooding is a familiar scene in the south of Scotland town

The story of flood protection in Dumfries goes back for decades with the Whitesands regularly bearing the brunt of any problems in the town.

In the mid-1980s consultants were commissioned to undertake a study and report back on what measures could be taken.

Down the years, the price tag for building defences - in various different guises - has risen from £2.2m to about £25m.

The latest scheme, for a "raised walkway" to protect the area, was backed by Dumfries and Galloway Council in 2015 but generated significant opposition.

That prompted the local authority to seek a public inquiry, held in late 2018 and early 2019, which has finally delivered its verdict.

What was the case for and against?

Image source, Dumfries and Galloway Council
Image caption,
The council has until the end of the month to give a written response to the public inquiry

The council has argued that the scheme represents the best solution for the town's lengthy struggle with the waters of the River Nith.

It said the walkway would provide protection against flooding and give much-needed relief to properties in the area.

The local authority has also claimed the project could help with the regeneration of the Whitesands.

Opponents have hit back saying it would transform the centre of Dumfries - but not in a positive way.

They cited the loss of riverside views due to the height of the banking as a major concern along with a loss of parking spaces.

However, repeated calls to dump the scheme have failed.

What will it do?

Image source, Dumfries and Galloway Council
Image caption,
A public inquiry was held into the plans at the end of 2018

The raised walkway will be built with a combination of walls, glass panels and flood gates providing protection.

The proposed new physical defences would stretch the length of the Whitesands from the local newspaper offices along to the Dock Park.

It is proposed the height of the walkway would be a maximum of 1.4m (4.5ft) which has been reduced from original plans in order to "greatly improve" views.

Glass panels would deal with a one-in-25-year event and demountable walls above them provide a one-in-75-year standard of protection.

A "focal point and viewing area" will also be created.

Analysis by Giancarlo Rinaldi, BBC news website south of Scotland reporter

Image caption,
The proposals are designed to make the area more attractive as well as providing protection

It won't please everyone, but at least a decision has been made.

More than a year after a public inquiry concluded, the Scottish government has decided that one of the most controversial planning projects in the south of the country can proceed.

Everybody agrees flooding is an issue on the Whitesands in Dumfries but finding consensus on a solution has proved virtually impossible

It now looks like some action will be taken at last - changing the look of the very heart of the town.

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