Martin’s Bridge will be closed for 10 weeks from the beginning of April, with temporary traffic lights and a single lane imposed for a further 10 weeks, bringing disruption to Roberton residents and A7 motorists, writes Sandy Neil.
Scottish Borders Council’s repairs to Martin’s Bridge in the Borthwick Valley, on the B711 road linking Roberton village with Hawick, aim to “strengthen and refurbish” the 200-year-old bridge, and “help maintain the bridge’s structural integrity for future years.”
Perhaps more pressingly, the strengthening of Martin’s Bridge – at the junction with the A7 just south of the town – is required so that huge turbines can be taken to the Langhope Rig wind farm site, three miles west of Ashkirk.
“It’s going to cause major disruption to the Borthwick Valley,” Bob Francombe, chairman of Upper Teviotdale and Borthwick Water Community Council, told TheSouthern. “The people of Roberton have just got to put up with it, as far as the council are concerned.”
The bridge over the Teviot is used by an estimated 100 valley residents a day to get to Hawick’s shops and services, and by hauliers delivering animal feed to valley farmers, and taking their livestock to market.
Lorries will face a 25-30 mile detour by taking the council’s official alternative route “from Martin’s Bridge by the B711 to Tushielaw; from Tushielaw by the B7009 to Selkirk; from Selkirk by the A7 to Hawick and continue by the A7 to Martin’s Bridge.”
The only other route open to hauliers is a 12 mile detour on a single track road to Ashkirk and the A7. An attempt to compensate drivers for the extra mileage was rejected.
Road works are going on to make a short alternative route for cars and the school bus into Hawick, by imposing a one-way system through Wilton Park and Wilton Hill. Further improvements are being made to widen and realign the junction of Wilton Park Road and Overhall Road, and to widen the masonry bridge over the Wilton Burn at the west end of Wilton Park.
SBC’s executive member for roads and infrastructure, Councillor Gordon Edgar, said: “Following on from the two information days in August 2012, held jointly with the wind farm developer SSE Renewables in Roberton, Scottish Borders Council has considered the feedback received from the community with regards to the timings of the works at Martin’s Bridge and the diversion arrangements to be put in place during the closure of the B711.
“The council has also recognised that during the closure of the road, locals will use some minor routes as alternatives to the more lengthy official diversion route.
“We will therefore be carrying out a programme of maintenance repairs to some local roads in the vicinity of Martin’s Bridge before the main works.”
But Roberton’s community councillors lamented a lack of communication from SBC. Mr Francombe said: “I didn’t see any consultation about the timing it should take place.” However he added, with resignation, that “no time is going to be convenient,” and “there is no suitable alternative route.”
He also voiced anger at the SBC changing its position over the repairs. “We as a community council raised the issue with Scottish Borders Council about Martin’s Bridge not being strong enough to support the weight of the turbines, when the windfarm was originally going through planning. But the council assured us the bridge was strong enough. Now it seems that is incorrect. I’m absolutely disgusted local rate payers now have to pay for the strengthening of Martin’s Bridge for a windfarm.”
The cost of the repairs is estimated at £480,000, with half paid by the council, and half by Scottish & Southern Energy.
A spokesperson for the windfarm developer Scottish & Southern Energy added: “Feedback from those that attended the consultation events suggested that the community preferred the closure of the B711 road at Martins Bridge to start in April to avoid busy transport periods for local farmers. Both SSE and Scottish Borders Council are keen to work with the local community during the works to minimise disruption and keep the community informed during this period.”