SBC accused of "ploughing on" with Peebles puffin crossing despite local concerns

Scottish Borders Council has been accused of dismissing the concerns of the people of Peebles by pressing on with plans to install a puffin crossing.

By Hilary Scott
Monday, 17th January 2022, 1:59 pm
The junction at the Eastgate leading to School Brae.
The junction at the Eastgate leading to School Brae.

The town’s community council says it has received many complaints from members of the public regarding the location of the proposed crossing on the Eastgate, and called for plans to be halted for a full community consultation.

The volume of concerns raised with Peebles Community Council left Tweeddale councillors at last week’s online meeting puzzled, declaring that they had not received any complaints from constituents in the town.

Chairman Les Turnbull said that the community council is not against the installation of a puffin crossing, but insisted that there should be a full review of the traffic problems around the town, including parking.

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The junction at the Eastgate leading to School Brae.

He added: “We want to find a solution to the difficulties we experience in the town and make it safer for pedestrians, cyclists and every road user.”

Doubt has also been cast on statistics provided by SBC on the number of accidents at the junction of Tweed Brae and Eastgate.

“Having looked at it, there are no accidents on that junction over the last 10 years,” said Mr Turnbull. “There are some accidents elsewhere, near the existing pedestrian crossing and the Mercat Cross, and further along the Eastgate near The Park Hotel, but not at that actual crossing.

“So, I’m a bit bemused as to why SBC is ploughing on when a lot of people in the town are saying, please have a halt to this so we can have this whole town consultation. It just seems strange.”

Mr Turnbull submitted a Freedom of Information request to SBC asking to see the report compiled by Sustrans.

He revealed: “I received a response to say that there is no formal report submitted. It appears that the decision has been made by discussions between Sustrans and officers, and without any evidence being produced, and that’s worrying.”

Tweeddale councillor Stuart Bell said that whilst he appreciated the accident statistics were not precisely at the junction where the crossing is being installed, people crossing at locations where there have been recorded accidents, could have been safely using the proposed puffin crossing had it been in place.

A local survey revealed that 307 were in favour of the proposed crossing, and 223 were against it.

Pulling out “inaccuracies” in the accident statistics, community councillor Peter Maudsley, said: “The letter said that a number of injuries had taken place at this location and in actual fact, the various accidents were spread from one end of the High Street to the other, and none actually occur at this particular point.”

He added that it was incorrectly stated that the incidents were between 2010 and 2019, when the last recorded accident was in 2017.

Calling the case for a the puffin crossing “weak”, Mr Maudsley highlighted that budget constraints mean there is no money to fix roads, with additional cuts to social services.

“Yet we are able to put this crossing in which was only thought to be a good idea by 51 percent of the respondents,” added Mr Maudsley.

However, the puffin crossing was backed by community councillor Julie Shearer, who said she was “fed-up of the negativity” and wanted to see a safe crossing which meant pedestrians weren’t forced to “dodge” cars.

Mr Turnbull replied: “We do agree with you. This is not about stopping having a puffin crossing. This is about finding the right location for it, as well as taking into account all the other traffic problems in the town.

“It seems that SBC has its face set against this, and is going to install the puffin crossing come what may.

Whilst acknowledging the “difference of opinion” held by Peebles Community Council, Mr Bell said the proposal for the crossing was originally suggested by Sustrans.

He said that a safety evaluation has been carried out, and that engineers are working on the design for the puffin and plan to be on site as soon as possible.