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Council / Cullivoe road in line for much-needed upgrade

‘Moratorium on future development’ in the area due to road condition

A section of the road which runs between Gutcher and Cullivoe. © Google 2019

THE ROAD heading towards Cullivoe Pier in Yell, which acts as a vital pathway for the aquaculture and fishing industries in the North Isles, is being put forward as a priority for upgrade.

The B9092 between the Gutcher ‘crossroads’ and the pier is “no longer considered fit for purpose due to the recent significant increase in the number of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) using the road”, according to council staff.

Members of Shetland Islands Council’s environment and transport committee agreed on Wednesday that the road should be made a top priority for upgrade – although the matter will need to be approved at two other council meetings over the next week before it can proceed to a business case.

Roads staff have concluded that the only viable long-term solution is to build a new road on a new alignment, with enough width to suit the increasing use by HGVs.

The estimated total capital cost could be around £4.3 million, although the true cost would only be detailed later down the line.

Councillors were told that if the usage continues at current levels then weight restrictions may have to be implemented as a temporary measure.

The condition of the road recently put plans for an expanded business park and new marina in Yell on hold due to concerns over the potential impact extra traffic may have.

North Yell Development Council, which is behind the plans, said in September that its directors were “frustrated and angry” that the £1.2 million project had stalled due to the “poor condition” of the road, blaming a “lack of previous investment”.

Cullivoe is up for a national fishing award. Photo: Kevin Tulloch
Cullivoe Pier. Photo: Kevin Tulloch

North Isles councillor Alec Priest told the environment and transport committee that plans for an agricultural shed had also similarly fallen foul of the road condition.

Roads manager Dave Coupe admitted there is “effectively a moratorium on future development” in the area due to the effect it could have on the road.

A report presented to councillors on the priority upgrade projects for core roads in Shetland said that the section of the B9082 is currently used by seven articulated trailers daily for the haulage of salmon and whitefish landings.

“The aquaculture industry in the North Isles, including the salmon processing factory in Mid Yell, relies on the Cullivoe Pier,” the report added.

“The deterioration of the B9082, to the point where it can no longer be used by HGVs, would cut off the pier with serious implications for the economy of Yell and Shetland as a whole.”

Councillors were told that the stretch of road was designed and constructed in 1851.

“It was designed for use by horse and cart with the only improvements since being localised widening, passing places and a bitumen bound surface,” the roads report said.

“Considering this it has coped remarkably well with the level of traffic loading to which it has been subjected. However, in September 2018 the area maintenance engineer for the North Isles expressed concern regarding the deterioration in the condition of the road and the implications this had for road safety.”

South mainland councillor George Smith said it was hard to argue against the actions proposed, but he stressed that the report before councillors should not be a one-off.

He called for a commitment that the same level of detail in the Cullivoe report should be forthcoming for the other roads in the Strategic Outline Programme of priority upgrades.

This includes the A970 at Levenwick, which has been mooted for a number of years following traffic accidents. Smith said possible improvements to that road have been “stop start”.

“I’m not wanting this to disappear into a black hole,” he said.

Priest, meanwhile, said that “no road lasts forever” and asked what can be done to stop roads getting into the condition the Cullivoe stretch has.

“This problem is going to happen all across Shetland,” he warned.

Lerwick North member Stephen Leask also hinted that it was his view that road improvements had not been a priority of councillors who were in place before the last election in 2017.

“Were they thinking they were being prudent, or were they just being thrifty?” he said.

“We are probably seeing now a build up of roads which need quite extensive maintenance.

“I think we must never let a road deteriorate”.

Westside member Catherine Hughson added “communities are getting really frustrated” over some roads.

She said she was disappointed that some road improvements had been on the books for years without action – including one that has been mooted since 2003.

A strategic outline business case for the B9082 Cullivoe road will be prepared if councillors give the plans their backing next week.

Roads staff are also proposing that the road to the West Burrafirth ferry terminal should be added to the strategic road network, which maps out Shetland’s core roads.

Councillors, meanwhile, were also told in a separate report that 36.1 per cent of Shetland’s roads “should be considered for maintenance”.

This is a drop from 35.3 per cent on the previous year.

This means that Shetland Islands Council is now ranked 20th out of the 32 Scottish local authorities for road carriageway condition – down from 17th the previous year.