COUNCILLORS will next week take a major step towards creating a second river crossing in Peebles.
The planning committee of Scottish Borders Council will be asked on Monday to approve a proposal for the developers of every new house to contribute £1,000 per unit to help fund an appraisal of options for an alternative to the 200-year-old Tweed Bridge.
At present that structure is the only road link between the main settlement and the increasingly populated south side.
Concern over the town’s dependence on the bridge has already been highlighted, not least by community councillors who last year expressed fears that increased traffic and water erosion could see it swept away.
Such a scenario would effectively cut off the south of Peebles, which hosts both the High School (the region’s largest) and the 400-pupil Priorsford Primary, and require motorists to take a circuitous 10-mile journey via Horsburgh Ford to get to the town centre.
The need for a second crossing was identified in 2005 in a transport study commissioned by SBC and carried out by consultant Colin Buchanan. He accurately predicted that the Tweed Bridge would experience “significantly higher levels of traffic” by 2010.
“In order to improve the environment on High Street and ensure road safety is not compromised, it would be sensible to consider the provision of an alternative river crossing,” said Mr Cameron.
Since then, an estimated 200 new houses have been built on the south side, notably at Whitehaugh and Jubilee Park.
And last month, the planning committee refused a bid by Cala Homes to build a further 21 homes at the latter site because of the pressure it would put on the roads network. If approved, it would have taken the number of new units at Jubilee Park to 72 – 27 more than that allocated in SBC’s Local Plan.
Councillor Gavin Logan (Tweeddale East) said: “There is no doubt that a second bridge is needed in Peebles now, regardless of any future developments. The two schools on the south side are constantly playing catch up as they expand along with the population. The town’s infrastructure is already at breaking point.”
Councillor Catriona Bhatia (Tweeddale West) said she also supported a second crossing, although she cautioned it could “open the floodgates” to yet more housing development in future.
“That is a risk which can be managed through the planning process, but a bigger risk is not having the infrastructure to accommodate job-creation to the business parks south of the Tweed,” she added.
TheSouthern understands two potential locations for the alternative bridge are being considered: the first at Kerfield on the eastern outskirts, and the second, closer to the town centre, near The Gytes.
On Monday, councillors will be asked to approve the immediate collection of £1,000 for all new housing units within the town boundaries.
“Bridge options are now being appraised ... and in due course developers will be required to contribute towards a second river crossing based on projected costs,” states a report from SBC’s plans and research manager Martin Wanless.
“In the interim, development sites need to contribution towards the funding of appraisal work in respect of the bridge options.”