We wish to respond to the extraordinary letter from councillors Willie Archibald and Bill Herd published in your paper on July 28.
The Conservation Area Bridge Action Group, whose campaign slogan is “A bridge too far”, was formed earlier this year to campaign to preserve the special Peebles town centre environment which is currently under threat from two of the proposed six routes for a new bridge over the Tweed at Peebles. It is not clear if we are the “pressure group” these councillors refer to, but we do, in any case, wish to exercise our democratic right to express our views to our own elected representatives.
If councillors Archibald and Herd do not wish to listen to the views of their constituents, we must wonder why they have sought public office? Perhaps it was simply to gain a position of authority with which to silence people with different views to theirs, rather than to represent them?
Naturally, there will be diverse views on an issue of such importance to all the people of Peebles. However, Scottish Borders Council’s own survey questionnaire found that among those people who felt a new bridge was needed, more than twice as many people preferred one of the easterly options to the westerly options which our group is opposed to. Furthermore, 50 per cent of the Tweeddale councillors (so far) have also been happy to publicly state their opposition to those bridge routes which run through the Peebles Conservation Area.
Contrary to the views of councillors Archibald and Herd, it would seem that the vast majority of those people expressing any preference are against the construction of a new road bridge through the Peebles Conservation Area – so why do these councillors not wish to take account of the views of this majority?
Our group represents a large number of residents of Peebles, many of whom live nowhere near the proposed bridge routes, but who are concerned that politicians may be about to destroy an area they use regularly. It includes public parks, allotments, playing fields, popular walking areas and is designated a conservation area, along with all the legal development restrictions that status entails. Local businesses are also concerned that re-routing traffic will be detrimental to trade and that damage to the environment will reduce tourism.
Councillors will soon make the decision about which bridge options are taken forward to a more detailed (and expensive) second study, so now is the time to close down options which are unacceptable, before taxpayers’ money is spent on further studies. Lobbying is a legitimate process to bring important issues to the attention of political decision-makers, whereas the accusation of coercion is to be condemned, and we would hope that if any councillor was truly being forced to do something against their will they would have the good sense to raise it with the police, rather than the press.
Any reader wishing to find out more or to join our campaign may do so at www.abridgetoofar.co.uk
Conservation Area Bridge Action Group