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Council / Broad welcome for possible improvements to Levenwick road

COUNCILLORS have given their backing to a project which could see major improvements made to the A970 above Levenwick.

An initial strategic outline case on the proposal went in front of Shetland Islands Council’s (SIC) policy and resources committee on Monday ahead of getting an airing at the full council in mid-June.

There was unanimous approval for the road, the main link to the South Mainland, getting an upgrade.

The A970 at Levenwick. Photo © David Dixon (cc-by-sa/2.0)

But Shetland west councillor Theo Smith said he was “ashamed” that the council has not yet got around improving the Haggersta to Cova road in Whiteness and Weisdale during the last nine and a half years he has been representing the area.

The piece of road in line for a possible upgrade is the A970 between the north and south junctions to the Levenwick loop.

Safety concerns have been raised for a number of years following accidents there, with the accident rate greater than national and local averages.

With a width of around 5.4 metres, compared to the current design standard of 6.8 metres, it is among the narrowest sections of two-lane road in Shetland.

The verge is also narrow, while there are three blind summits. Many metres of the road’s edge are also cracked due to vehicle overrun, and will soon need repaired.

The preferred option for improvements, priced at over £3.3 million, would see the road widened and crash barriers installed.

Shetland south member Allison Duncan has been a fierce advocate for upgrading the road, and he said it has been a “long, long battle”.

He again described the piece of road as a “death trap”.

Duncan mentioned that less than an hour prior to the meeting he received a phone call from a resident of Levenwick who had just witnessed a near miss on the road involving a cyclist and a 4×4 vehicle.

The councillor added that in his view there is “no reason” why planned work on a new road in Cullivoe in Yell could not take place at the same time.

A report to members highlighted that there are other areas in the council where major capital spend is being planned, such as in the school estate and connectivity.

But Shetland South member George Smith said that while he did not suggest spending outwith the council’s means, he encouraged creative thinking around improving assets rather than just maintaining them.

“We have grown through the pandemic our resources and our reserves,” he said.

It comes after members were told that the value of the SIC’s investments rose by more than £100 million between March 2020 and 2021.

Smith admitted that it is a “real challenge” for the council to maintain Shetland’s road network, but it is important to invest in assets to reflect the council’s ambitions.

“Let’s get on and get this one done,” he said.

Shetland South colleague Robbie McGregor said he hoped for progress on the road “as soon as possible”.

Development committee chairman Alastair Cooper, meanwhile, added that Shetland needs the infrastructure in place if the council wants more people to live, work and invest in the isles.

Theo Smith said he welcomed the improvements to the Levenwick road, but highlighted areas in desperate need of attention in his own ward.

He said the Walls pier had been revamped, but the road into it needs work, while he was “ashamed” nothing has been done on the road between the Whiteness school and Weisdale.

The plans for the Levenwick road, meanwhile, will have go through a number of stages before it can receive the final go-ahead.