Am Bratach No. 315
January 2018
editor@bratach.co.uk


Council fails to publicise delayed works on B871

Motorists attempting to travel on the B871 between Syre and Kinbrace during the first week of December would have met with an unpleasant surprise. A 9km stretch of this road had already been closed for six weeks to allow repairs to a bridge over the Allt Lon a’ Chuil. According to all published information available up to that date, it was due to reopen on December 1. However, without any advance warning, the road closure was extended by a further three weeks.

Postman Mark Gilbert spotted an A4 laminated notice tied to a strainer post at the Syre junction, requiring him to stop his vehicle for a closer look. The notice was an ordinary typed letter, signed by Graham Mackenzie, Roads Operations Manager for Caithness and Sutherland, and dated November 30. It identified the closure period as lasting from 1800 hours on Friday, December 1, until 1800 hours on Friday, December 22. The notice stated that “no person may use, or permit the use of any vehicle on the length of road, or part of parts of that length of road, specified in the schedule to this order”. According to the terms of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, such a prohibition must be identified “by means of one or more traffic signs prescribed in Diagram 7010.1 of the Traffic Signs Regulations 2016.”

It was not until Friday, December 8, a week after the extended closure, that the temporary prohibition notice was published in The Northern Times. To date, no news release about the extension has been published on the Highland Council’s website, leaving road users wishing to use the route in the dark as to its status.

A Highland Council spokeswoman said that the main reason for the extension was “the bad weather and the further repairs required to the bridge”. She also confirmed that resurfacing works on the road would continue into January. No explanation was provided as to why the continued closure had not been publicised in a more timely or accessible manner. Although the council have not given any formal intimation of further closures, it is rumoured locally that another shutdown may be in the offing before works are finally complete.

The council’s communications strategy for 2015-17 promises: “We will be efficient and effective in our communications and seek improvement by evaluating what we do.” It also aims “to provide useful, informative and accessible information about council services and initiatives”, and to “create and embed a new relationship between the council and our Highland communities based on listening, trust, empowerment and participation.”

Mr Gilbert said: “I intend to use the road from Saturday [December 23] onwards but my concern is that the council seem to have no management or communication. Most of the signs relating to the works have been knocked over due to snow.”

The B871 works are being carried out by John Gunn and Sons for the Highland Council. The repairs have been funded by a Forestry Commission grant aimed at the upkeep of roads used for transporting timber. 

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