Villagers hit out at councils over closure

Residents of a Borders hamlet are up in arms over plans to close their favoured route to Clovenfords and Galashiels for 18 months after giving only six days’ notice.

By Kevin Janiak
Wednesday, 8th July 2020, 4:36 pm
Updated Thursday, 9th July 2020, 9:36 am
The B710 road from Caddonfoot to Clovenfords will be closed for 18 months as a trial period, a move which has angered residents of Fairnilee.
The B710 road from Caddonfoot to Clovenfords will be closed for 18 months as a trial period, a move which has angered residents of Fairnilee.

Fairnilee’s 28 residents received a letter from Scottish Borders Council on Tuesday detailing plans to close the B710 Clovenfords-to-Caddonfoot road from its junction with the A707 at Caddonfoot, starting next Monday, for a trial period to promote walking and cycling along the route as the coronavirus pandemic recedes.

The council’s traffic and road safety team leader, Phillipa Gilhooly, says in that letter that such a move had been requested by residents of Clovenfords and would be tried out “to see if the closure of this road makes this route more accessible and safer for residents”.

Fairnilee residents say they use the road daily and claim there has been no consultation since all of them rejected the proposal in January, complaining that they now face an additional 2.5 miles for each journey by being redirected along the A72.

Fairnilee resident Graeme Kerr.

The small community got together to email the council back yesterday.

Its email states that they had all rejected Clovenfords Community Council’s proposal in January to close “our main and historic access route to the village and Galashiels”.

It goes on: “We are all shocked and furious to learn that the road is being temporarily closed for 18 months without any evidence-based consultation process – including road traffic, road safety, residents or pedestrian surveys – or prior warning and that this will come into effect in six days’ time.

“We feel that we have been entirely ignored, railroaded and can’t believe the community council and regional council managed to slip this through under the guise of Covid-19 when it has been a plan of the former for a considerably longer time.

A line-painting vehicle was at the junction on Wednesday.

“Many people on the estate have elderly residents living in Clovenfords that sometimes require urgent attention, being registered blind or disabled etc, and the road closure will undoubtedly increase their response time for emergencies.

“Everyone uses the road to travel to and from work, some four times per day.

“Closing the road will increase two-way traffic considerably on the A72 between Caddonfoot and the roundabout, which is already dangerous especially around the junction from Peel. Has this even been considered?

“There are a huge number of accessible off-road trails around Clovenfords and land that could be developed to increase these. Why do we need another?

“Can you please respond to explain how this has been put in place without any consultation of wider road network users, locals and residents?”

Among the residents unhappy about the closure is Graeme Kerr, whose mother, 86-year-old Faye Kerr, lives in Clovenfords.

He said: “She is registered blind and she has fallen recently so needs some support.

“I’m also using the road at least four times a day when I’m out and about working as a landscape gardener.

“It’s a major disappointment that it will take me so much longer to get to where I’m going.

“I just don’t know how the council can just close the road which is used by so many people without doing so much as a road traffic survey.

“There are loads of paths for walkers and cyclists all around Clovenfords. It beats me why they need another one.”

However, the work to change the road layout is to go ahead, and when we went to take a photo of the junction yesterday, a line-painting vehicle was parked in the layby.

A spokesman for Scottish Borders Council told us: “This will benefit a variety of vulnerable road users, including children, as well as those looking for a quieter surfaced walk away from the A72 such as elderly or disabled pedestrians.

“We are keen for as many residents as possible to benefit from this trial as soon as possible, especially over the summer holidays.

“As the diversion route is straightforward, there did not appear to be any other reason to delay this as part of the temporary traffic regulation order process.

“We informed the local community council and elected members of this trial closure as it was apparent from a recent Borders-wide public consultation process available online that many locals were keen to see an improvement in this area.

“An evaluation will take place towards the end of the 18-month period to see if there is an appetite for a permanent change.”