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Council / Full council backs Levenwick road upgrade plan

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

PROPOSALS for potential improvements to the A970 at Levenwick are to progress to the next stage.

Councillors gave their backing to the project at a meeting on Wednesday morning.

An initial strategic outline case on the proposal went in front of the full Shetland Islands Council, and its preferred option is to widen the road and install barriers at a cost of around £3.3 million.

Safety concerns have been raised for a number of years, 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.

Road safety improvements on the carriageway has been a long-held quest for Shetland South member Allison Duncan.

He told Wednesday’s meeting that the council should press ahead with the preferred option.

As it stands the £3.3 million would have to be paid for through borrowing, and a report to elected members said this would result in “additional annual revenue borrowing costs of £154k per year over the next 60 years”.

It did mention, however, that if external grant funding can be sourced the borrowing cost would be reduced. This is an “aspiration” for the council, manager of assets, commissioning and procurement Robert Sinclair said.

Duncan though said “we will never borrow the money any cheaper” than at the moment.

Fellow south member George Smith, meanwhile, encouraged council officers to use “imagination and creativity” in looking at funding capital projects.

“Let’s rise to the challenge,” he said.

But the state of some of the roads in the Westside was raised again by representatives Catherine Hughson and Theo Smith.

Hughson said the road between Haggersta and Cova, and carriageway in Walls, need close attention.

The west was becoming a “poor relation” to the rest of Shetland, and she claimed that it appeared it would need a fatality or a road issue before work was done.

Theo Smith said he was “really quite aghast” that the Haggersta/Cova road was placed down the list of major road upgrade priorities.

“I would like to see this be given another review,” he said.

Levenwick is second on the list behind Cullivoe in Yell, which has already been approved.

Council leader Steven Coutts, who also represents the west, did note about investing in the Walls pier but not the surrounding road network.

But he said the current council has developed a strategic road network plan, which was not in place before.

During the meeting Lerwick member Amanda Hawick asked if cycling, for instance, was being taken into account in the planning. She pointed to Faroe’s “amazing road network” as a blueprint.

Neil Hutcheson of the road service said council’s recently approved active travel strategy means walking and cycling paths need to be considered.

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