Kelso one-way road system made permanent as taxi row lingers on

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COUNCILLORS this week rubber-stamped the introduction of a traffic regulation order to make Kelso’s experimental one-way roads layout permanent.

The experimental set-up was introduced in March 2011, and is part of the Kelso Town Centre Traffic Management/ Streetscape project, which was included in Scottish Borders Council’s capital programme in June 2008.

The intervening period has seen numerous detailed discussions between the local authority officials and member of the town’s stakeholder group, which represents local groups and organisations.

The introduction of the one-way system to the town’s Horsemarket and Woodmarket has been generally hailed as a success and has simplified traffic movements and provided scope for improvements for pedestrians, shoppers and motorists using the town centre.

The one-way element of the scheme was initially trialled for a six-month period to allow an assessment of traffic, pedestrian and parking aspects to take place and was extended with minor modifications for a further 12 months to allow further assessment and enable a permanent scheme to be worked up.

But controversy erupted during the summer, when the statutory consultation process on making the traffic order permanent revealed a number of amendments which had not been trialled along with the rest of the changes.

This attracted adverse reaction from both Kelso Chamber of Trade and Kelso Community Council. The main adverse comments received related to the creation of parking spaces in Roxburgh Street; level of provision of dedicated disabled parking places; concern about shared surface area outside Hector Innes’ shop in the square; the central location of a charging point for electric vehicle; the loss of two parking spaces in Abbey Row and, most controversially, the switching of the taxi rank from one side of the square to the other.

Scottish Borders councillor Tom Weatherston (Kelso, Con), says overall, the scheme has been well received by the town’s residents: “There has been a few issues, such as the moving of the taxi rank, but overall I think the scheme has been received very well,” he told TheSouthern this week. “One-way systems have worked fine in places like Melrose and Hawick, so there’s no reason it won’t be the same for Kelso.”

But one local taxi driver has accused the local authority of “moving the goalposts” with the changes to the trialled lay-out, which see the taxi rank moved to the opposite side of the square and positioned at the top of Horsemarket.

There has been concern from taxi operators that the move will see drivers and their cars slap bang in the middle of the area frequented by crowds of revellers exiting local pubs at the weekend.

“The council says it used a scoring system to help decide where the rank should go, avoiding being near bedrooms and things like that,” he told us.

“But they’re just moving the goalposts to suit themselves. I don’t think the majority of Kelso folk know what’s going on as regards this Streetscape project. They’ve no idea what’s being planned.”

An SBC spokesman told us the location of the taxi rank is the same as agreed by the local stakeholder group some months ago.

“This is after very thorough discussions with the stakeholder group and the community,” he added.