False alarm ignites fresh fears over Dirtpot Corner

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LANDSLIDE fears at a notorious section of a Peeblesshire road have led to renewed calls for it to be realigned.

Police closed the A72 at Dirtpot Corner – between Innerleithen and Cardrona – for an hour-and-a-half last Thursday evening after a member of the public thought soil above the route had slipped.

Investigations by Scottish Borders Council road officers discovered it was a false alarm, but the scare has refreshed a campaign to see the dangerous corner, which was closed for six weeks in 2003 after a major landslide, removed.

Innerleithen Community Council chairman Ross McGinn told TheSouthern: “Obviously there are still fears in the area about such a strategically important route. There was terrible trouble for Innerleithen last time the road was blocked at that spot and economically it would be a disaster were it to happen again.

“I do not think the councillors appreciate that,” he added.

Dirtpot Corner was the main casualty of SBC’s reduced capital spending programme in February, when the £4.7million alignment scheme was dropped. Instead, £300,000 was earmarked to strengthen temporary works to stabilise the banking above the road – put in place after the landslide of eight years ago – which civil engineers advised would be sufficient to safeguard motorists.

Mr McGinn added: “It certainly does not appear that the council are prepared to realign the corner, which would be the best option. Last time there was a major landslide, Innerleithen was cut off for weeks with no suitable alternative route. There was a major backlog of cars and school buses struggled to get to Peebles High School.

“Obviously there are budget constraints, but when it comes to safety and the economy of the area, these constraints should not come into it. If the councillors are not ready to realise this, they should bite the bullet and leave.”

Scottish National Party councillors opposed the move to postpone the improvement plans.

One of its members, Tweeddale councillor Willie Archibald, said: “There is an election coming up in May and although the present administration failed to go ahead with the realignment, the SNP group will be pushing for it to be a top priority.

“The A72 is important to the economy of the Borders, particularly during the tourist season, and in fact for 12 months of the year. It connects not just the east and west of the Borders, but also through traffic from Glasgow.

“Dirtpot Corner has had some cosmetic work done to it, but it needs a complete realignment.”

An SBC spokesperson said: “Because of the benefits it can bring, a realignment of Dirtpot Corner remains an aspiration of the [roads] department – to reduce vehicle conflict and the risk of land slips. However, it would have to take its place with all the other competing priorities.”