Councillors voted narrowly in favour of prioritising works to a notorious stretch of road at Levenwick.
A show of hands at the town hall today backed George Smith by five votes to four, after the South Mainland member argued for the job to be included on the SIC’s asset investment plan as soon as funding becomes available.
The A970 between the north and south Levenwick junctions has been under the spotlight since a 2009 road safety check and, especially, following an incident last year when a lorry toppled over at the scene.
Since then, the road has ranked fourth in a list of 120 prioritised road improvements with a combined worth of almost £20 million. The various schemes have been prioritised for when funding becomes available. First on the list is the 20mph area around the Esplanade.
Following last year’s crash, a series of improvements – including signage and road markings – were introduced. However, a Scottish government approved “Stag” appraisal concluded a £3 million option to widen and straighten the road would only achieve minimal safety improvements and, on that basis, the scheme was not being recommended by officials for capital investment.
But, speaking at today’s policy and resources committee, Mr Smith was anxious to see the work done. He sought a business case to help put the job through a so-called “Gateway” process, which would get design fees approved and ensure the project was ready to go as and when money becomes available.
He wondered how a project could be categorised at number four in a list of priorities, and still be unable to get through Gateway.
“If a scheme that’s at number four on that list can’t go through the Gateway process, what chance does any of the other schemes?” he said.
He highlighted figures which showed 200 vehicles a week from car rental firms operating at Sumburgh going to and from the airport, typically carrying people from outwith the isles who were unfamiliar with the road layout.
“The Stag appraisal states the road in question is a strategic link with Sumburgh Airport, and is a piece of road that’s used by anybody and everybody, visitors and residents.”
He highlighted legislation which placed an obligation on local authorities to take necessary steps to reduce accidents.
Fellow local member Allison Duncan, who attended the meeting, added his support to the motion, and described the portion of road as “a black spot” and “a death trap”.
However, West Side member Theo Smith said he wanted to see “fairness” and “clarity”. He highlighted the narrow road heading west between Haggersta and Cova on the A971. That stretch has been waiting for work to be done to it for many years but sits at number 12 on the road improvements list.
Political leader Gary Robinson had wondered what the motion by Mr Smith would achieve, not least because the road was already listed in fourth place. He said other well-worthwhile projects, such as improvements at Scalloway’s Mill Brae, were equally worthy of investment.
The committee heard nothing could happen at the moment, in any case, because of a lack of funding available to carry out the work. Mr Robertson lost out by one vote after putting forward an amendment calling for the matter to be discussed at the environment and transport committee.
The full council will discuss the matter later in the month.