Opposition to closure forces A708 U-turn

Meeting at Cappercleuch Hall regarding the closure of part of the A708 road near Yarrow.
Meeting at Cappercleuch Hall regarding the closure of part of the A708 road near Yarrow.

The controversial closure of an A-road outside Selkirk to make way for the town’s £31million flood protection scheme (FPS) has been postponed following a public outcry, writes Andrew Keddie.

A stretch of the A708 Moffat route near the entrance to Philiphaugh Estate was due to be closed to all traffic on Monday to allow the carriageway to be raised one metre – effectively cutting off the valley settlements of Broadmeadows, Yarrowford, Yarrow and Cappercleuch, and many other homes and businesses along the way.

Signs were erected in the middle of last month advising that the road, on the haugh of the fast-flowing Yarrow Water, would be closed for 15 weeks – a period which includes the Easter weekend and two bank holidays.

And Scottish Borders Council, which is in charge of the FPS project, advised a 60-mile diversion route via Peebles (A72), Moffat (A701) and back down the Yarrow valley on the A708.

A shorter local diversion – linking the Yarrow and Ettrick valleys – exists, but that road is single track and has a weight restriction at Collins Bridge near Bowhill.

Inundated with complaints from people and firms affected by the closure, the council called a public meeting last Tuesday at Cappercleuch Hall.

Around 80 people attended, including representatives of farm, leisure and other tourism-related businesses.

They heard that the requirement for the road closure had not been known until February 13, when RJ McLeod, the main contractor on the flood defence project, had confirmed its construction method. There was anger at the lack of consultation and concern about the impact it would have on lives and livelihoods.

The following day a press release from the council announced that the closure had been postponed to allow a review, expected to be completed in the summer, to take place.

A council spokesperson told The Southern: “The public meeting was the result of a number of individuals and organisations getting in contact with the flood protection scheme project team to raise their concerns about the planned A708 road closure. 
The focus was on the economic and road safety impacts 
they felt the closure would bring.

“At the meeting, the local community felt the closure would be detrimental to the Ettrick and Yarrow valleys and, after discussions with other stakeholders, the project team and R. J. McLeod agreed to postpone the works to carry out a full design review.

“The works at this section of the A708 will not recommence without an exhaustive consultation process with the local community.”