Call for study of spending on roads damaged by timber operations

A CALL for council officials to undertake a study into what consideration is given to Borders roads damaged by timber extraction and haulage operations, when it comes to local authority spending plans, has failed to gain support.

The request came from Councillor Gavin Logan (Tweeddale East, Con), who was speaking at last week’s October meeting of the full Scottish Borders Council.

Mr Logan asked Councillor Gordon Edgar (Selkirkshire, Ind), Executive Member for Environment and Infrastructure, exactly what consideration was given to routes, including undesignated routes, which are damaged by timber extraction and haulage operations with regards to the local authority’s capital expenditure programme, and if he agreed that a specific study into this problem should be considered.

In reply, Mr Edgar explained: “Forests cover approximately 18 per cent of the Scottish Borders.

“The harvesting of timber in the area has intensified in the last decade or so as the forests have reached maturity.

“The impact on roads within the Scottish Borders through timber extraction is acknowledged as an issue.

“Support funding is available from Central Government through the Strategic Timber Transport Fund, but this involves the council match funding at least 50 per cent of the total cost of any scheme.

“The process is also a competitive one and bids normally outweigh available funding by a considerable factor.

“Scottish Borders Council has been successful in the past in gaining access to this fund, most recently for work in the Ettrick Valley. Capital schemes to improve roads damaged by forestry extraction compete with other priorities in the Capital Financial Plan.

“The current Roads Block allocation of £1.7million is prioritised on several factors including damage, safety, hierarchy, usage, connectivity and other factors.

“Unless there is support from council for a significant investment in forestry roads, I do not believe that a study would prove to be value for money.”

Commenting that it was “a pity” that his call for a study did not gain support from Mr Edgar, Mr Logan said that the Scottish Government allocates a grant for roads based on the length of the roads in the Borders and he pressed for more of this cash to actually be spent on these issues, since it was not ring-fenced for this purpose.

He commented: “This grant is not ring fenced and unfortunately SBC in the past has only allocated 80 per cent of the grant for roads,” Mr Logan said. “Recently SBC has had to allocate £0.63million from the unallocated emergency and unfunded schemes budget to basically play catch up on our roads.

“In the run up to the budget setting for 2013/14, will you push as hard as you can to have the whole of the funds allocated for roads used for the purpose for which it is intended and so keep our roads from deteriorating any further?”

Mr Edgar said he agreed much more money should be spent on roads. “But, unfortunately, money has to be spent subject to the parameters of other spending requirements in the Borders,” he added.