Whitesands project

The Whitesands Project is a scheme to provide flood protection and regeneration for the Whitesands area of Dumfries. It has been developed following extensive public consultation and refinement, and the finalised scheme was published by Dumfries and Galloway Council in June 2017.

On 17 March 2020 the Scottish Government wrote to Dumfries and Galloway Council to advise them of the Scottish Ministers' decision to confirm the Scheme without modification and to grant deemed planning permission.  The scheme would be 80% funded through the Scottish government's ringfenced flood protection budget.

Icon for pdf Download the Whitesands Project Decision Letter [PDF - 370KB]

As well as reducing flood risk, the project supports the aspirations of the Dynamically Different Dumfries agenda, and will help to transform the Whitesands, greatly improving an under-utilised area of the town.

Following scheme confirmation and completion of the statutory period for any legal challenges, the next stage will be to appoint specialist designers to complete the detailed designs and prepare contract documentation.

Check the latest updates

Scheme Design

The confirmed scheme is based on a 'raised walkway' concept with a combination of walls, glass panels and flood gates providing flood protection. (NB earlier proposals for a full height 'bund' were changed in response to concerns about impacts on views toward the river). The use of solid walls softened by planting and grassy banks has been used on schemes across the country and is a is a tried and tested method for reducing flood risk.

The new physical defences (walls/glass/raised walkway combinations) will begin next to the Dumfries and Galloway Standard offices and end downstream, just past the Pizzeria in Dock Park. Defences are also included over the river at Welldale and Kenmure Terrace.

The key design features are:

  • The existing riverside wall, walkway and cycleway remain largely unchanged, with the addition of a raised walking route set back from the river.
  • The new raised walkway will be no more than 1.4m or 4' above existing ground levels.
  • Side slopes will be gentle, to ensure grassed areas can be used as open space.
  • Glass panels along the top of the walkway will provide permanent a 1 in 25 year return period standard of protection.
  • For more exceptional flood events, demountable walling above the glass panels will add height, providing a 1 in 75 year return period standard of protection.
  • Where there is insufficient room to accommodate the raised walkway, there will be a combination of walls, glass panels and flood gates.
  • The road alignment stays as it is but with the addition of bus stops along the roadside to replace the existing interchange.
  • All parking on the shop side of the Whitesands is retained.
  • A focal point and viewing area would be created at the Sandy Opening.
  • All designs and materials will be sympathetic to the setting and historic features such as the Devorgilla Bridge.



The Whitesands area of Dumfries experiences regular flooding events and this has impacted on levels of investment in the area, as well as causing damage to properties and infrastructure. The most severe flood events in recent years in 2014/2015 were classified as 1 in 25 to 1 in 30-year events. A flood on 30 December 2022 was the highest since the 1980's and affected many residential and commercial premises. The frequency and severity of flooding will increase because of climate change, so such events are expected to become more common, with more severe events more likely to occur.

In response to these risks, Dumfries and Galloway Councildeveloped proposals for flood protection, commissioning subject experts in flood modelling and protection, civil engineering, ecology and conservation to review all options for tackling the problem, whilst respecting the unique history, heritage and cultural assets of the area. Stakeholders and the local community were kept involved and informed through a series of consultation and information sharing events between 2011 and 2016 (see 'Development of the flood protection and regeneration scheme' section below for details).

Flood Protection Order

In June 2017, Elected Members made the preliminary decision to confirm the Whitesands Project (Flood Protection and Public Realm Improvements) without modifications and published the Flood Protection Order.

The Flood Protection Order included the following documents:

  • Flood Protection Scheme Notice
  • Flood Protection Scheme Description Document
  • Flood Protection Scheme Drawings
  • Environmental Statement

Supporting documents:

  • Design Justification Report
  • Operational and Maintenance Arrangements
  • Community Consultation Report

All of these documents are available to view online:

Comments and representations

A total of 287 representations were received in response to the Flood Order in 2017. Each signatory/name was given an individual representation number, resulting in a final total of 340 representations. The representations raised many common themes, and we prepared answers to these issues:

Public Local Inquiry

Because of the objections to the scheme, the Council requested that Scottish government hold an independent Public Local Inquiry (PLI). Two Reporters from the Government's Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA) ran the PLI in November-December 2018. The PLI process provided detailed independent scrutiny of all aspects of the Council's proposals and of all objections to the scheme:

  • Witnesses for the Council included a wide range of specialists and technical experts, responsible for developing the original proposals.
  • All objectors to the 2017 Flood Order were offered the opportunity to participate and were able to cross-examine any of the Council's witnesses.  
  • A total of 27 objectors participated with a further 25 producing further written submissions.
  • All original written objections to the Flood Order were provided to the Reporters.

All Inquiry documents and web casts of all sessions can be found on the DPEA's website, the case reference number for the project is FPS-170-1.

Objections raised before and during the PLI, included a range of different issues such as loss of parking or views, risks of displacing flooding to other areas, etc and different potential solutions were also presented, such as dredging the river, upstream storage, or the use of self-rising barriers. All of these options had been considered during scheme development but were discounted (further information can be found in the various links below). Evidence of this process was presented under cross-examination at the PLI by the various experts that had developed the proposals.

The Reporters spent several months analysing all aspects of the case before submitting their findings and recommendations to Scottish Ministers in September 2019. The Reporters concluded that there was no consensus from the objectors as to what a suitable solution would be, or what the design might look like. Consequently, they did not find any reason to recommend ministers should consider any amendments to the scheme (see link below for the PLI Reporter's report and recommendations):

Further information

We have prepared some answers to frequently asked questions about the project:

Development of the Scheme

2011 - 2013

  • Hydraulic Modelling Study - undertaken to assess flood levels and potential options.
  • December 2011; Planning, Housing and Environment Services Committee - Agreement to develop a Flood Protection and Regeneration scheme for the Whitesands
  • Gillespies LLP and DG Design commissioned to prepare a Masterplan.
  • September 2012; Design Charrette - A series of interactive design workshops and meetings take place where the public, local design professionals and the project team work together to develop a detailed vision for the site.
  • January 2013; Masterplan Report - 'A New Vision Whitesands' is completed, based on outcomes from the Design Charette. Includes flood protection and public realm improvements for the Whitesands area and wider townscape improvements.
  • February 2013; Planning, Housing, and Environmental Services Committee - Agreement to progress project based on the Masterplan.
  • April 2013; Gillespies provide Project Update for the local community.
  • May 2013; Enviroplan appointed by Gillespies to undertake Strategic Environmental Assessment ('SEA'): Aim of an SEA is to ensure that any potentially significant adverse effects on the environment are identified and avoided/minimised/mitigated, and any potentially positive effects enhanced.
  • May 2013; Mouchel prepare a Technical Report.
  • August 2013; Public display/presentation by Gillespies in the Bakers Oven - featured numerous design boards to showcase the developing project. Feedback from this is generally positive.
  • September 2013; Planning, Housing and Environmental Services Committee - Progress with the project is noted and it is agreed to continue with it as a priority scheme.

2014 - 2017

  • March 2014; Policy and Resources Committee - Funding agreed to progress development of the scheme.
  • Aug - September 2014; Eight-week consultation on Masterplan and SEA - Responses logged and a committee report prepared.
  • October 2014; Dumfries Common Good Sub Committee - Use of Common Good land is agreed for construction of the Project.
  • November 2014; Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee - Committee considers the Whitesands Masterplan along with consultation responses and appropriate amendments. Agreement to adopt the Masterplan as statutory supplementary guidance, following completion of relevant adoption procedures.
  • December 2014; Nithsdale Area Committee Community Meeting
  • A community meeting and public engagement session takes place, including displays and discussions. Feedback is recorded.
  • January 2015; Public display and engagement at the former Bakers Oven - Three-day event with extensive public participation and engagement, including displays and discussions.
  • A full-scale model is constructed in location on the Whitesands.
  • February - August 2015: Significant redesign of the defences (including reducing height of the 'bund') in response to feedback from the public engagement events.
  • September 2015; Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee: Update on progress reported, including details of improved (raised walkway) scheme and alternatives considered. Agreement to carry out further consultation and engagement sessions on the improved scheme and any alternatives.
  • October 2015; Engagement event - A further three-day event with extensive public participation and engagement takes place at the former Bakers Oven, including display boards of the improved (raised walkway) scheme and alternatives with a questionnaire to record feedback and comment.
  • November 2015; Nithsdale Area Committee - Agreement to support the improved (raised walkway) scheme.
  • November 2015; Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee - Agreement to support the improved (raised walkway) design and approves publication and promotion of the progress on the scheme.
  • November 2016; Public Exhibition - A three-day event with extensive public participation to provide comprehensive details of the scheme prior to the publication of the flood order.
  • December 2016; Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee and Full Council Committee - Agreed that the Whitesands Project be published as a Flood Protection Scheme.
  • January 2017; Policy and Resources Committee - the Whitesands Project is published.
  • February - April 2017 - 287 representations are recorded. All objectors are contacted with further information.
  • June 2017; Elected Members at Full Council make the preliminary decision to confirm the Whitesands Project (Flood Protection and Public Realm Improvements) without modifications and publish the Flood Order, then asks Scottish government to call the scheme in, triggering a Public Local Inquiry.

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Page last updated: 12/01/2023
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