"I don’t think there is anybody here today who is not aware the importance of the Whitebridge for Cawdor and the surrounding area.
The Whitebridge is a strategic bridge, it’s also the oldest in the council estate with the B9090 being the main commercial artery for the area.
The recently imposed 18 ton weight restriction will cause years of hardship, expense and delays for the farming and forestry community’s and local businesses alike, as they seek to reconfigure their transport arrangements.
There is also the detrimental effect on road safety to be considered, as heavy goods vehicles, through necessity find new routes through the surrounding countryside.
The bridge is a strategic bridge, it’s also the oldest in the council estate and a speedy replacement is essential.
However, before I urge my colleagues to endorse the recommendation for a new bridge, I have two additional points to make. Firstly, I would like to thank to Mr Howell, Head of Infrastructure and his team, for their management of the project. From community consultation with the Cawdor Community Council and the Whitebridge Community Support Group, through to the fast tracked preparation of the proposals in front of us today, their performance brings nothing but credit to their department and the Highland Council.
In addition, I would also like to highlight the role of local Ward 18 members Cllrs Balfour and Stephen.
They have raised concerns about the condition of the existing Whitebridge over a period of many years and have played a pivotal role in the replacement project.
The second point i would like to make regards Nairn and the potentially disastrous impact on traffic flow that rerouting large numbers of additional heavy goods vehicles through Nairn, via the A96 could have.
At our recent meeting last week with Transport Scotland, they provided data, most of it from bluetooth monitoring regarding traffic flow through Nairn. At peak times, it takes between 8-9 minutes to cover the 2 plus miles to journey through Nairn. However, we all know how fragile and precarious the current set up is, as evidenced by the gridlock that occurred over an entire weekend due to work carried out by Scottish Gas .
Mr Howell and his team will be carrying out a traffic impact assessment following the closure of the Whitebridge to heavy goods vehicles.
I stressed to senior figures at Transport Scotland the absolute necessity of working in conjunction with Highland Council to use the combined data to bring forward asap mitigation measures, eg switching off traffic lights, so as to proactively alleviate potential gridlock.
They will have the combined data, they are the professionals, they know their business and we look to them to come up with a proactive evidenced based solution.
In the interim I whole heartedly support the recommendation and would urge my colleagues to do likewise."
Earlier today we published reaction from the White Bridge support group and Cawdor and West Nairnshire Community Council, you can read that here.