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Transport / Estimated cost of new Cullivoe road reaches £9.9m

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THE ESTIMATED cost of creating a new Cullivoe road in Yell has now risen to nearly £10 million.

The £9.9 million capital estimate is almost double the £5 million figure given in the early stages of the project in 2020. The most recent budget had been £6.3 million.

Meanwhile a final business case for the development is only expected to come before councillors in September next year, despite previous hopes that work could get underway on site in the spring.

The project is still listed as an “unfunded project” in the SIC’s five year asset investment plan ahead of the final business case being approved.

Councillors were told at a meeting on Monday that there has been a 28 per cent construction inflation in the last two years.

Improvements to the pier road to facilitate HGVs and future developments, and environmental impact mitigations, have also increased costs.

These measures include peat reclamation, burn crossings using prefabricated arch structures rather than culverts and sustainable drainage features.

A couple of years ago councillors approved the idea of creating a two-lane road between Gutcher and Cullivoe, but over recent months members have expressed a desire to see things progress.

The link is important for the aquaculture and fishing traffic from the Cullivoe pier, but the current road is in poor condition.

The final business case being delayed to September 2024 is to allow an environmental impact assessment to be prepared for the planning application.

A report to councillors on the SIC’s environment and transport committee said that progress is being made with the land acquisitions, with missives concluded for two of the eight plots.

But SIC infrastructure director John Smith said the timetable for delivering a new road was a “best estimate” and that things could change.

And there is an acknowledgment that the actual cost could end up being higher than the £9.9 million estimate. There may also be borrowing costs attached to project too.

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During debate there was concern from some elected members at the level of “bureaucracy” behind projects within the council, and the effect it has on the pace of progress.

Shetland South member Robbie McGregor said things “seem to go on and on forever”.

But committee chair Moraig Lyall noted that the two key issues to tackle in the Cullivoe project are land ownership and the environmental impact assessment, which she said are essential and “not entirely within our own hands”.

There had been planning restrictions in Cullivoe due to the condition of the existing road, but that was effectively removed earlier this year, with developments now assessed on a case by case basis.

One development which had been affected was North Yell Development Council’s (NYDC) new marina and extended business park, with caravan pitches, next to the Cullivoe pier. In this case some materials had to be shipped in by boat to get around the road issue.

At Monday’s meeting Hutcheson said there was no roads concern regarding activities and traffic at the business park, which was officially launched this summer.

However the visibility between passing places for caravans on the road still needs to be looked out, with restrictions remaining in place on NYDC’s caravan park being used.

North Isles member Robert Thomson, however, said given there are existing caravan spaces at the Cullivoe Hall and that buses use the road, the SIC is perhaps “trying to fix a problem that isn’t there”.

Meanwhile councillors have been told that recent developments in design mean that road safety barriers could potentially be installed on the east side of the existing A970 at Levenwick.

Improving the A970 above Levenwick is another major road project on the cards, with the current preferred option being to widen the road and then install barriers at an estimated cost of around £5 million.

Roadside barriers plus improvements to blind summit had previously been discounted as an option as the verge was too narrow for previous models of barrier, leading to the idea to create a new road.

But the advances in barrier design means there is now an opportunity to consider this option.

At Monday’s meeting Shetland South councillor Alex Armitage welcomed this news, saying that he felt the more expensive option to widen the road was not relevant to the current context, particularly financially.

Roads manager Neil Hutcheson said if barriers were introduced and the blind summit was tackled, there still could be an option to wider the road in the future.

Also on the list of possible major road projects is upgrading the A971 from West Burrafirth to Walls.

There is an intention to present an outline business case to councillors in March. Its estimated project budget is £9.46 million.

Work on a strategic outline case for upgrading the B9081 Mid Yell link road would then follow once the report for the West Burrafirth to Walls scheme has been completed.

The A970 from the Hillswick/Ollaberry junction towards Urafirth is lower on the list and background work on this will only be progressed when other business cases are completed.

This is the same for the road between Whiteness and Weisdale. However, that road will be subject to a 50mph speed limit between Stebbigrind and Cova, with signs due to be installed.

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