DUMFRIES and Galloway Council will not support the redevelopment of the Townfoot Sports Centre in Langholm unless a flood protection scheme is built.
The news was revealed by the centre’s working group which was set up to redevelop the site after it was closed by Edinburgh Woollen Mill in February 2019.
As reported in the group’s previous newsletter, it had received a response to its pre-planning application from the council.
This raised concerns by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the council’s flood risk management team that the proposed redevelopment was in an area categorised as having a medium to high risk of flooding.
The council said it would not support the proposal as it currently stood because of the risk of flooding.
However, its report concluded that the proposal could be considered if the flooding concerns were addressed with more information and assessments.
A group spokesperson said: “We have now received additional information from flood risk management team.
“This clarifies that, until a formal flood protection scheme is constructed in Langholm, the council would maintain its objection to any proposed development which lies within the floodplain.
“Clearly, the floodplain issue is a concern, as is developing a business plan which will support the economic sustainability of the redevelopment in the current challenging economic climate.
“However, the working group and Langholm Initiative are ready for the challenge and determined to make the project a success for the benefit of the community.
“The COVID-19 situation has had an impact on the timescales for the delivery of our design feasibility study.”
Campbell Scott, who chairs the group, said he did not know yet what their next move would be.
Robert Potter & Partners of Dumfries, which was working on the design feasibility study, was currently finalising the draft study.
Campbell said: “Once it’s completed, we draft an option appraisal report and can come forward with a recommendation and conclusions to put to the governance review team.
“This comprises the Langholm Initiative board members and representatives of Ashleybank Investments (which owns the building).
“The council’s response is disappointing and makes things a lot more difficult.
“In the current climate trying to find capital funding will also be challenging. That was always going to be the case but may be even more so coming out of COVID-19.”
He said the group had to manage expectations and be clear that the flood plain was an issue.
If a flood protection scheme went ahead, they would then be able to look forward with some confidence.
Councillor Ronnie Tait, Annandale East and Eskdale, said: “As a supporter of the Townfoot Sports Centre redevelopment, I’m very concerned about the flooding issue highlighted to the working group by the council.
“The council will maintain its objection to any proposed redevelopment on the flood plain which the sports centre itself is on.
“I sincerely hope they can come up with some solution to this.
“As I have highlighted on many occasions, Langholm needs a flood prevention scheme because most developments, I suggest, will be near the river, especially if the project is for public use.