Fury as top tourist route to be blocked

BUSINESSES have been given just a week’s notice that the main road through Yarrow Valley would be closed every weekend in September.

Tourism operators have slammed the decision to close the A708 from Selkirk to Moffat for tree felling, which was made without consulting them and comes during one of the busiest months of the year.

Tibbie Shiels hotelier Alistair Moody said: “This Saturday [September 8] is the busiest day of the whole year yet priority is been given to a private forestry firm. It is ridiculous and should be sorted out now. It is not to late too do the right thing and not close the A708 this weekend. We pay for it, and out here we miss out on a lot of other services, so this is just not fair.“

He is holding a raft race and family fun day, planned for months, to raise money for the Selkirk-based charity Scottish HART at St Mary’s Loch on Saturday afternoon, followed by music by the Border Boogie Band at night. Now he does not know whether people will turn up because of “road closed” signs at Selkirk and Moffat.

“The Gordon Arms has just opened, the Yarrow Show is on, and there is a music festival at Tweedsmuir, all of which are going to be seriously affected,” he said.

The closures, from 6am on Saturdays to 10pm on Sundays are to allow Fountains Forestry to fell Shortwoodend Wood, near Moffat, which is in Dumfries and Galloway.

Forest manager Gavin Mann said in an email to locals that the over-mature trees on the steep slope could blow over and be a hazard to road users and felling them would tie in with harvesting at nearby Sailfoot Forest.

Mr Moody said on Tuesday: “I was surprised it went ahead last weekend, I thought it was a silly mistake and they would come to their senses. There must be a procedure if you close an A road but if there was any consultation, it didn’t reach us.”

Road users had already been inconvenienced because there is no sign up for those reaching the A708 from the narrow Talla road and cyclists had pedalled towards Moffat at the weekend only to be turned back.

At the Gordon Arms Hotel, on the A708’s junction with the road to Innerleithen and Tushielaw, hotelier Mac McEwen, said: “This is only our second weekend coming up but I would say it will affect business because the signs are at Selkirk saying the road is closed and even though it says it’s open to St Mary’s Loch, people see a road closed sign and turn back.”

At the Glen Cafe near St Mary’s Loch, Kath Stephenson said: “It’s been a disaster of a summer and then when the weather comes right, they close the road. Our trade was halved at the weekend. We emailed [an official in Dumfries and Galloway Council] and said we would lose a lot of money but I don’t think there will be any compensation.”

Yarrow and Ettrick Valleys revitalisation officer Julie Nock said: “I appreciate foresters need to maximise daylight hours and not interfere with major holidays or commuters but it would appear local businesses potentially affected were not informed until quite late in the day.

“Early consultation could have avoided the problems the businesses are now facing. Several events have been planned throughout September which rely heavily on visitors from the Moffat area. Consultation would have allowed different plans to be made to minimise the impact.”

A Dumfries and Galloway Council official emailed businesses on Monday saying Fountains Forestry hoped to need complete closure only this weekend and to have the A708 open during the third weekend “albeit subject to delays of up to 20 minutes”.

He said he would update traders on Monday.