The menacing black cloud that obscured the entire length of the Black Isle and beyond as far up the Moray Firth as the eye could see last night moved south just as the meeting in the Cawdor Community Centre got underway. It wasn’t long before windows had to be shut to keep out the noise of the heavy rain and wind that was competing with the voices of those eager to debate the future of the White Bridge and all the myriad of road traffic issues that spin out from the impending problem.
Out on the B9090 itself huge puddles were forming that would exercise the driving skills of those leaving the meeting later. Perhaps there are issues with drainage on parts of the road or maybe there is just nothing that can be done at some locations when such heavy rains fall. At least it wasn’t during the peak period of the day when many, many drivers habitually now take the unofficial bypass route to avoid even the normal traffic light delays in Nairn let alone the 45 minute queues that temporary traffic lights for roadworks can bring about; add into this the forthcoming weight restriction on the White Bridge and you have the perfect traffic storm looming and not just a passing one on a summer’s evening.
The Cawdor Communtiy Council meeting was well attended by residents, former Convenor Sandy Park was there, Cawdor estate reps and in addition to the Nairn Councillors, Kate Stephen and Roddy Balfour had made their way once again to Cawdor and the Highland Council’s Roads official John Taylor was also present to answer questions.
He started by outlining how the consultation process so far had proceeded and explained what would happen next. He mentioned the meeting in the Cawdor Hall on the 30th of July to take on routing concerns. He revealed that there had also been a meeting with Transport Scotland and BEAR Scotland to discuss the implications for traffic on the A96 and they have asked that the Highland Council provide a traffic assessment. It emerged that they are looking at a possible structural assessment of the Howford Bridge before the end of August which would dictate whether a loading assessment would be required.
Lord Cawdor at this point asked: “What does that actually mean?”
John Taylor responded: “Well I’m not a structural engineer; they will decide whether the bridge is satisfactory to take any significant additional loading.”
He added that it all looked fine at the moment but that was not the Council’s preferred option and he indicated that they wanted to put rerouted traffic that would not be able to use the White Bridge down into Nairn on the A939.
John stated that the next part of the consultation process was a further open day on the 26th of August. He added:
“I think there is a request from the committee to potentially put that back pending possible acceleration of the project but I’m not sure that that really is going to be an option. We’re not quite sure when we get a definite answer on where the project sits in the capital programme.”
He went on to say that they were aware of the sensitivity and importance of the bridge and the matter was to be raised at the next Development and Infrastructure committee meeting on the 19th of August. The Council were currently working on options and solutions and there was the very beginning of a design report where lines and options were being assessed. It was not altogether simple however as there were some environmental and service/utility issues at the bridge. It was anticipated that fuller info would be presented at the next Development and Infrastructure meeting on the 4th of November. John Taylor went on:
“And if acceleration of the project is recommended and agreed, and I have to say if because there is a number of competing schemes in, then subject to member agreement and statutory consents then agreed the replacement could commence late 2016.”
John Taylor’s brief presentation set the stage for quite a number of questions from the floor of the meeting. More from the evening's events when time permits.