The Dumfries and Galloway Council’s planning committee convened on Wednesday, the 28th of June 2023, to discuss the proposed parking space expansion in Dumfries as part of the Whitesands flood defence scheme.
The long-running flood prevention initiative has attracted significant attention, with several objectors expressing their concerns during the meeting.
The council’s planning committee was tasked with reviewing and approving the proposed modifications to the planning permission conditions for the creation of a car park on the Greensands.
The Greensands area, once the location of the town’s swimming pool is now the subject of debate as the council aims to provide contingency parking during the construction of the Whitesands flood defence scheme.
However, objections were raised by individuals, primarily residents of Dumfries, who voiced their reservations about converting public open space into parking areas.
Among the objectors was the Loreburn Community Council, which lodged objections on various grounds and questioned the necessity of constructing a car park for a flood scheme whose implementation remains uncertain.
Sally Hinchcliffe, the convener of Cycling Dumfries, attended the meeting and presented a statement opposing the plans. In her statement, Hinchcliffe expressed her belief that investing in bus services and promoting walking or cycling would be more beneficial than spending resources to encourage driving.
Additionally, she highlighted their findings, stating, “We found in our evidence that there is ample space for parking in Dumfries, even when the Whitesands is closed.” Hinchcliffe concluded by stating, “Adding parking to the Greensands is not the solution that we need.”
During the meeting, three letters from concerned members of the public were read out, raising issues related to road safety and the lack of an assessment of the potential increase in traffic.
The planning committee members were divided on the matter. Annandale East and Eskdale Councillor Archie Dryburgh proposed the approval of the application, which was seconded by Annandale North Councillor Stephen Thompson. On the other hand, Annandale South Councillor Ian Carruthers tabled an amendment calling for the rejection of the proposal, receiving support from his Conservative colleague Ivor Hyslop.
After a tied vote of 8-8, the planning committee chairman, Councillor Jim Dempster, exercised his casting vote, ultimately granting approval for the application.
The Whitesands flood protection scheme, initially estimated at £25 million in 2016, obtained planning permission from the Scottish government prior to the Covid pandemic, leading to delays in its implementation. However, the subsequent change in political leadership within the local authority resulted in the exclusion of any development funding for the project in the Conservative budget over the next decade or more.
Despite uncertainties surrounding the overall fate of the scheme, the council’s planning committee was tasked with considering the proposal for compensatory car parking in the Greensands area ahead of the broader flood protection project.
Opponents argued that there were already sufficient parking spaces available in the town and expressed concerns about the potential environmental impact of the plan.
The tied vote and subsequent use of the chairman’s casting vote resulted in the approval of the parking proposals, allowing for their implementation before the remaining flood protection work commences.