THE council team in charge of developing Langholm’s flood protection scheme has squashed a rumour that the project is on hold for six months.
Work will continue as planned, despite Dumfries and Galloway Council putting so much of its resources into responding to the COVID-19 crisis.
A community group calling for a pause during the pandemic has voiced its disappointment that the scheme continues.
A council spokesperson said: “We have had to prioritise services and workloads but consider the continued development of the Langholm scheme as a critical element of business as usual.
“On that basis our design team continues to work on this scheme because it is vital to protect the community against future flooding events.
“When we need to do a further formal engagement, the project will go on hold until after the restrictions are lifted.
“A planning application is not needed in this instance; instead, a confirmed flood protection scheme receives deemed planning permission if it is approved through the flood order process. More details are on the website.”
The spokesperson added: “As with any public engagement, we are aware there are concerns and objections.
“Based on our work to date and taking account of feedback, the council feels confident to proceed to completion of the outline design of a scheme based on direct defences with an overflow channel to relieve flow on the Wauchope during high-flow events.
Langholm’s flood defences review group is asking the council to reconsider the preferred option in favour of a lower-impact scheme.
A group statement said: “It’s disappointing the council has refused to consider the impact COVID-19 is having on our community group’s ability to organise and engage with the ongoing process.
“We believe the proposed scheme has failed to address some serious technical issues and has a number of design flaws and various weaknesses.
“The council must address these major ongoing concerns if it’s not to risk wasting taxpayers’ money.
“We called for a six-month pause and design review so we could present these concerns in detail to the project team and engage positively with the council. We will continue to press this urgently.”
It added: “In such unprecedented times it is shameful that the council intends to simply ignore serious and urgent community concerns and continue with its flood order application, which receives deemed planning permission on approval behind closed doors.
“The scheme, as it stands, will seriously and adversely affect the town’s character and amenities.
“We’re seeking to explore the scope for modifications which will safeguard the town’s unique character and heritage, while providing appropriate defences.
“The council’s response does not represent good local government administrative or engagement practices.
“Such a large-scale infrastructure project should be able to withstand detailed technical scrutiny from the community, on which it has such a great impact.
“The proposed scheme is unacceptable to a growing number of residents as time has gone on and people have had time to consider the issues and impacts.
“Anyone with concerns is encouraged to join the group and add their voice.”
The group is Facebook on the Langholm Flood Page or email firstname.lastname@example.org. “This really is the final opportunity to raise concerns and voices to influence the final design of a scheme and ensure it delivers technically and doesn’t entirely cut off the community from its beautiful river,” it added.