THE REASONS WHY A BY-PASS WOULD BENEFIT SELKIRK

THE BY-PASS DOCUMENT CAN BE READ HERE OR DOWNLOADED USING THIS LINK:

Presentation-reasons why a bypass would benefit Selkirk July 2016.doc

1.00 Context:

The A7 is a defined Trunk road and is accepted in all relevant Development documents as a strategic Borders route – and as such it should continue to receive investment for its maintenance and improvement. 

The National Transport Strategy (January 2016) and the National Planning Framework set out a policy framework intended to identify a vision and achieve the ambitions for Scotland.

The current SESplan (2015) recognises that “further investment is needed to continue to improve transport and digital connectivity in the wider rural area of Scottish Borders”.

The current SESTRAN REGIONAL TRANSPORT STRATEGY identifies the A7 route as part of the Midlothian East/ Borders regional corridor and includes in its objectives to improve connectivity and safety.

This supporting framework will enable the o/a road network to contribute towards development - “in a sustainable manner” - of the potential economic growth of the Scottish Borders, especially in terms of employment, business opportunities, residential growth, culture/ heritage, visitor attractions, tourism/ leisure (e.g. recreational sport/ walking) etc.

The current SBC Main Issues Report (local access and transport strategy) recognises the benefits of an A7 Selkirk Bypass;

“The development of a Selkirk bypass would provide the opportunity to improve the town centre environment, enhance road linkages within the Central Borders and speed up journey times from Hawick northwards.
 A route for a new bypass is safeguarded within the Local Development Plan. However, as the A7 south of Galashiels is classified as Trunk Road,
a commitment from the Scottish Government would be required to promote the project. Until this commitment is received, the uncertainty is a significant constraint to the planning of longer term development in Selkirk and associated environmental improvements.”

The absence, at this time, of any Government commitment to even endorse an approved line for a Selkirk By-pass is regrettable - and lamented by some as indifference to the needs of those living and visiting southern Scotland.

Nonetheless, the recent (and continuing) economic climate is such that a capital venture of this nature is unlikely to be sustainable in the short term.

But this is not what the Selkirk community have asked for.

The Community wishes the ultimate need for a by-pass to be acknowledged in the Transport Plan and for survey work to be undertaken in order to establish the optimum line of the route.   This will encourage and empower Selkirk to plan for its future (see also below under ‘Planning Gain’) and facilitate work towards a more sustainable and vibrant local economy. The Royal Burgh of Selkirk and District Community Council and Selkirk Regeneration Company, supported by Scottish Borders Council and local MSPs have all expressed their support for this project.

In addition

the Community Empowerment (2015) Act, which promotes public service reform, provides a legal basis for participation, and establishes new rights and responsibilities for community bodies and public authorities. Local communities can now identify local outcomes, including transport initiatives, related to economic development - thus enhancing accessibility and sustaining remote communities, which can then be delivered in partnership. It is just this form of participation and interaction that Selkirk is seeking

‘Transport’ tackles geographical inequality by investing in transport services and infrastructure (particularly in rural and remote places) and through supporting inclusive growth by enhancing regional cohesion.

The haulage of freight into and through Scotland is also an important strategic issue and ensuring the needs of freight transport are considered in various policy areas and plans – such as Scottish planning policy, the National Planning Framework, Low Emissions Strategy, the marine plan – and between public agencies.

A spinal route from England through the southern Borders to the Central Belt would be in keeping with current policies.  Development of the freight industry would support the Governments Freight Action Plan whilst also improving the ‘Accessibility’ of rural and remote areas:

2.0                           

THE ARGUMENTS FOR A SELKIRK BYPASS ARE ROBUST

AND THE LOCAL ISSUES ARE AS FOLLOWS

2.1

Traffic Flows and Journey Times:

Selkirk regularly experiences traffic congestion and delays.These delays are frequently caused by heavy lorries which create bottlenecks and consequently extend journey times for those ‘travelling through’ and beyond the town.These vehicles have become increasingly larger in recent years and when 2 of these (or multi-axle ‘artics’) meet on the corner at the foot of Selkirk’s Tower Street, combined with indiscriminate parking -this necessitates one backing up with resulting traffic chaos. This is happening with increasing frequency (3-6 times daily).

there is a need for improved traffic flows through Selkirk and onwards to Tweedbank and the central Borders road network in order to assist railway commuters and visitors to access the reopened (and successful) Waverley rail line improve community networking in the central Borders and benefit tourism and trade by improving visitor access and awareness improve access to the Borders ‘Central Belt’ and for example, the crematorium facility at Melrose a Selkirk by-pass would undoubtedly represent an improvement in the overall condition and efficiency of the A7 route which would assist traffic flows and help provide a strategic direct, much needed alternative through the spine of the Scottish Borders, giving a safer passage to all road users – both commercial (freight) and private.

economic viability, recovery and population growth in the Scottish Borders still demand good transport connections.

 

 

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2.2

Geometric Standards:

The function of Selkirk’s central area is impaired and constrained by the sluggish flow of through (increasingly heavy multi-axle) traffic.This situation is exacerbated by vehicles having to negotiate several sharp bends including 2 at 90°, fairly steep gradients and narrow roads. The establishment of a Selkirk by-pass would enable this traffic flow to travel north/ south more smoothly and also reduce carbon emissions and potential structural harm to the adjoining built infrastructure.

There are also sections of Hillside Terrace, Tower Street and Ettrick Terrace where the footway is of minimal width – and very uneven and impeded by street lighting columns etc. - which creates public safety risks to all road users, especially regarding safer routes to school.

2.3

Signing/Markings:

Currently, there is general evidence of wear to road markings generally – resulting in unclear directional and control signing and risking accidents the lack of traffic wardens highlights the need for more controls in order to effectively manage the speed of traffic through Selkirk and, as mentioned above, avoid indiscriminate parking of cars which reduces sightlines and pedestrian visibility.The police attempt to target offenders but their active involvement is limited.

a Selkirk by-pass would reduce pressure on traffic flows through the town, reduce wear on road markings (and maintenance costs) and facilitate better directional and control signing

2.4

Geometric Standards and Structural Condition:

The function of Selkirk’s central area is impaired and constrained by the sluggish flow of through (increasingly heavy multi-axle) traffic.This situation is exacerbated by vehicles having to negotiate several sharp bends including 2 at 90°, fairly steep gradients and narrow roads. The establishment of a Selkirk by-pass would enable this traffic flow to travel north/ south more smoothly and also reduce carbon emissions and potential structural harm to the built infrastructure.

There are also sections of Hillside Terrace, Tower Street and Ettrick Terrace where the footway is of minimal width – and very uneven and impeded by street lighting columns etc. - which creates public safety risks to all road users, especially regarding safer routes to school.

Distressed road surfacing and broken footpaths are frequently noted at areas of Tower Street, Hillside Terrace and Ettrick Terrace – where vehicle overrunning can damage paving surfaces which are not engineered to bear that weight

Footpath damage in the Central Area, as a result of vehicle over running – and irresponsible parking – results in a consequent increased risk to pedestrian safety (and therefore extra maintenance costs to Transport Scotland/ SBC)

There is also an urgent need for an agreed schedule of appropriate materials – suitable for the Conservation Area - to be used in areas of heavy wear: for continuity, this palette should be agreed between Transport Scotland, the local authority (SBC), Public Utilities and local community (e.g. Community Council)

kerb profiles have been ‘lost’ as a result of repeated road surface overtopping - esp. in the area north of the Sherriff Court (Ettrick Terrace). It is understood this has resulted in flooding in the basement of No.102 Ettrick Terrace.

Localised flooding has also been regularly observed at various sections of the A7, e.g. opposite the former Baxter’s unit at Dunsdale Haugh near the Dunsdale Road junction.It is unclear whether the current flood protection works will help resolve these drainage problems.

Ettrick Terrace: water surcharge/seepage from the retaining wall (regularly reported) causes a potential safety hazard to road and footpath users – especially during freezing conditions

There has also been occasional subsidence - visible at the existing pedestrian crossing, outside the County Hotel.The community has previously reported this but only superficial repair work has been carried out.It is understood the problem relates to an old well, which is known to be located in this area – and therefore further, more detailed investigation is required in order to carry out suitable, lasting repairs.Currently, this may become practical during future remodelling of the Market Place area, as part of the CARS programme.

2.5

Junctions:

Within Selkirk, the A7 has junctions with a series of access/ feeder roads.Where these occur at sharp corners such as the Tower Street/ High Street junction or at The Green/ Market Place then local traffic can be delayed, then backs up and causes congestion within the network.

2.6

Lay-bys / Buses:

Adequate lay-bys should be created off the carriageway to allow buses to stop in central Selkirk without entering the Market Place which could then be used in a much more user-friendly way – and this situation is currently being reviewed as an integral part of the Market Place regeneration programme

The provision of a bus lay-by - or at least provision for a replacement bus stop - at an appropriate (safe) position near Ladylands garage (south of Selkirk) has previously been requested by the community and should now be reconsidered and implemented forthwith

The provision of a bus lay-by at an appropriate position near the commercial/ industrial units at Dunsdale Haugh (north approach to Selkirk) has already been requested by the community and should be implemented at the earliest opportunity.

2.7

Footways / Cycleways:

Note concerns regarding Public safety issues along Hillside Terrace and the difficulties caused to pedestrians by illegal parking.

2.8

Protection of Selkirk’s historic centre and conservation area: Removing heavy traffic from Selkirk’s historic core will reduce potential (and actual) damage to buildings and roadway – caused by excessive vibration, traffic movements etc.

(Structural damage to adjacent walls/ buildings is now evident on Hillside Terrace and Tower Street). 

This reduction of maintenance costs would represent financial and manpower savings for the trunk roads authority, Scottish Borders Council and individual property owners.

Selkirk’s central area and in particular the Market Place are currently dominated by traffic movements – all to the detriment of pedestrian safety, the Conservation Area and the setting of Listed buildings and monuments - all of which largely represent the heritage of the town.

2.9

Road Accidents and Safety:

The implementation of a Selkirk By-pass would undoubtedly improve pedestrian/ road user safety in the town. 

Narrow, minimal width footways create great difficulty for pedestrians.For example, local concern is regularly expressed at Selkirk Community Council that public safety is compromised through the narrow, minimal width, uneven footpaths of Hillside Terrace esp. north of High School which are a potential hazard to the safety of school children/ or wheelchair users/ or mothers with prams or buggies/ and pedestrians with mobility difficulties.

Complaints are regularly made to police (by the Community Council, on behalf of local residents) re breaching of the 20mph and 30mph speed limits on Hillside Terrace and this has also been reported to the A7 Action Group.Speeds are checked intermittently but not ‘visibly’ to show drivers when they exceed the limit.

Safe pedestrian access to Selkirk High School is at risk.The A7 with its narrow footpaths down Hillside Terrace is ill equipped to safely cope with pedestrians in single file, let alone groups of pupils as they arrive and depart from the school premises.There is no safe alternative and access to the rear of the school is via a local ‘rat-run’ which is also narrow and has limited footpath provision.

In the High School area, the A7 problems have been recognised in that Transport Scotland and their Agents AMEY (and their predecessors BEAR) have joined with Selkirk High School and representatives of the local Selkirk community to develop a School Travel Plan which not only raised public awareness of existing road safety issues but also considered a range of ongoing measures to improve the present situation.It is essential that this work (of implementation) continues, although the most positive action in the longer term will be the formal acceptance of need for a Selkirk by-pass which will then remove direct conflict between heavy traffic with school access users.

 

Within Selkirk central area (at the foot of Tower Street opposite no 2 Tower Street) larger vehicles travelling north through the central area, are obliged to cut the corners/ use the opposite carriageway and/ or mount the footway in order to negotiate the corner at the High Street - and this creates a safety hazard to pedestrians (with a school pupil already injured and many near misses at this point) on a narrow / exposed footpath.Similarly, a large vehicle, in negotiating the corner, destroyed the sun awning of Selkirk Deli by using the pavement to obtain a wider sweep.At the next corner (Fleece Hotel) which exits the Market Place to the north, has already been highlighted as an essential place to cross but difficult to negotiate due to the volume of traffic and reduced pedestrian visibility – and was the scene of a fatal accident in 2014.

 

The Fleece junction (Market Place) has been highlighted as a difficult road to cross due to the volume of traffic and reduced pedestrian visibility and was the site of a pedestrian fatality in December 2014.An additional pedestrian crossing, would be difficult to achieve for engineering and safety reasons.

Current proposals for the redevelopment of the Market Place – which will be the subject of public consultation - includes consideration of possible means to help ease this difficult problem but the only practical solution would seem to be the elimination of (unnecessary) through traffic which does not stop in the town and again highlights the need for a Selkirk by-pass.

A positive and pro-active approach is required to encourage footpath improvements for better disabled access and general pedestrian safety – especially in the central area of Selkirk.And it may be possible to address this in the redesign of the Market Place.

An additional factor is illegal parking – both outwith marked bays and also astride the footpaths themselves – a situation which has proliferated in recent times, despite police attention but primarily since the loss of local parking wardens

It has also been suggested that a new roundabout be formed at the junction of the A7/ A699 (St Boswells road)/ the Loan - south of Ladylands garage - to improve traffic safety (sightlines) and to slow traffic both coming downhill into Selkirk from the south and those vehicles heading south - which tend to accelerate out of the town whilst still within the 30mph limit.

2.10

Green issues: The establishment of a by-pass will enable through (heavy) traffic to travel north/south without having to negotiate 2 sharp 90° bends, steep gradients and narrow roads.  This will lead to ‘smoother’ driving and reduce carbon emissions. With the Waverley rail line now re-established to the Central Borders, a Selkirk by-pass will be invaluable to avoid delays for commuters/ travellers from the Hawick/ Roxburgh areas.  It will be vital to offer quick and easy access to the railhead at Tweedbank - at least in the foreseeable future until the line can be extended further south.  Access to the Borders crematorium facility at Melrose would also be enhanced by the removal of the existing Selkirk bottleneck.

2.11 Lighting

The use of light fittings which are wholly energy efficient and have appropriate reflectors to avoid light pollution (both upwards and to the side to avoid unnecessary intrusion and distraction) should be encouraged

Street lighting should only be provided where required and meets minimum current safety standards. Remove unnecessary energy-wasteful lighting units.

Selkirk central area – also an integral part of the conservation area – has been visually and physically damaged by comparatively recently erected unsightly and obstructive lamp standards and it is the Community Council’s wish to revert to lights fixed to buildings in the central area as per the previous arrangement.This will reduce visual clutter, make footpaths less restricted by obstacles, improve pedestrian and disabled access and raise safety standards.

The above aspects would be made more practical when a by-pass is available and help make the Borders more energy efficient and sustainable within its heritage context.

2.12 Pollution:

The removal of through/ heavy traffic (with its accompanying noise, vibration, carbon emissions, odours and diesel pollutants) from the centre of Selkirk will also release opportunities for visitors to pause and enjoy local facilities, and enable townsfolk to go about their business more safely. A bypass would also virtually eliminate the constantly increasing health hazard to local inhabitants and visitors from ‘through traffic’ exhaust emissions. (See Below – ‘Air Quality’)

The health hazards cannot be ignored; Diesel emissions cause disease - increased asthma, heart disease, some cancers and recently questions of intellectual impairment have all been attributed to the increase in diesel engine emissions over the last two decades or so.  More at risk are the young, the old and those with pre-existing disease. Mitigating measures are essential if we wish to reduce the incidence of pollution-caused disease with its associated costs to the NHS.  Avoidance of exposure is one important mitigation stratagem such as re-routing traffic with a bypass.

Acting positively should assist the Government (in a small part) to meet its ambitious statutory emissions reduction targets for Scotland (as set out in the RPP2 report) – which specifically encourages the promotion of sustainable communities and ensuring efficient use of the road network.

One of the recent targets of NHS Borders under the heading Sustainability “….has been to reduce emissions over the period to 2011 (T) To reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2050 (T)” and to improve the health of the Borders population.

Public involvement takes place largely by SBC Environmental Health staff. Interaction includes: Monitoring of Air Quality in major Border towns and reporting to Council on findings. The effectiveness of these current procedures is in need of re-appraisal for the reasons given below.

2.13 Air Quality:

It is understood that monitoring of air quality takes place in the Borders on a regular and dependable basis only in Peebles, although Hawick, Kelso and Melrose are sporadically tested through the use of passive diffusion tubes.

This method of monitoring is woefully misleading; What levels are found in Peebles have nothing to do with the rest of the Borders, and diffusion tubes cannot measure periodic surges in pollution and in any case carry a 25% error. The pollution in Selkirk is due to rush hour traffic (i.e. surges) on the A7 coinciding with schoolchildren going to and from school. Research has shown that there can be very localised pollution ‘hotspots’ where very damaging levels of pollution can be reached with significant long-term damage to health. Recent re-defining of what constitutes a ‘risk’ area still ignores what we know about local hotspots such as in Selkirk.

Any monitoring method must be tailored to the site/environment/risk under scrutiny. The only relevant practical mode of measuring is of particulate levels (PM10) which has never been attempted in Selkirk. All the monitoring previously undertaken is therefore irrelevant to Selkirk.

Appropriate measures to monitor air quality at key locations along the A7 route through Selkirk should be arranged forthwith, e.g. at High School/ Tower Street/ Market Place

Scotland must also play its part in the national effort to reduce air pollution and its impacts. The Cleaner Air for Scotland strategy sets out actions and frameworks to support the vision of Scotland having the cleanest air in Europe.

The government’s wider ambitions also set out a Roadmap, advising that “measures will be taken to help achieve the vision of freeing Scotland’s towns, cities and communities from the damaging effects of petrol and diesel fuelled vehicles by 2050”

2.14 Noise:

Noise from transport can be a nuisance. The Scottish Government is developing a ranking process for the Noise Management Areas recently identified across the major road network and city agglomerations in Scotland. During 2015-16, it will be considering a revision of the Noise Insulation Scotland Regulations with a view to create a new Scottish Statutory Instrument on this issue of householder protection from new road noise. Bringing a trunk road through the centre of a community is disruptive in many ways and, in Selkirk’s case, the worst aspects could be considerably lessened by the provision of a by-pass.

2.15 Central area refurbishment:

A ‘traffic calmed’ Selkirk would facilitate an eventual thorough physical and economic refurbishment of the town and its assets.  In addition, the existing A7 corridor and especially the north approach into the town is in need of environmental improvement and landscape management. 

The work currently being carried out to replan the Market Place will certainly help make the Central Area more attractive and encouraging for visitors and locals but a Selkirk by-pass will certainly be the catalyst for achieving a long term sustainable solution.

2.16 Planning gain:

The need for a By-pass is not necessarily only an operational matter, nor is it correct to conclude that the project would only deliver local rather than strategic benefits. 

It most certainly has strategic economic implications, e.g. to facilitate a direct link and feed to the recently reinstated Waverley line and also to help serve Galashiels which is described in the SESplan MIR (May 2010) as a “strategic town centre in the SESplan area that serves (the) wider defined Borders Strategic Development Geographical Area.” 

Also, an identified and protected by-pass line will positively influence the ability for Scottish Borders Council to meet future targets for house building and economic growth as identified in current Development plans and current SESplan documents.

Thus, if the line of a by-pass route can be established in the Government’s Transport Planning, then this should enable Scottish Borders Council to identify and zone appropriate land in the local development plan.  The most positive use will be residential to help future housing allocations in the central borders, together with mixed use and employment zoning. 

An opportunity for planning gain then exists.  If (say) the line and profile are fixed and 1 or 2 key roundabout positions are identified, an opportunity arises to plan future developments around these ‘nodes’.  Individual housing areas could be developed – with each incorporating a section of the future by-pass line and then feeding into the existing road network.  Such a jigsaw process would effectively create a private sector financial contribution towards the o/a cost of the by-pass project and could ultimately be linked up to achieve the final route.

 

2.17 Local economy:

Future residential development will, in turn, add to the local population and vitality of the town and thereby help sustain and boost the local economy and enhance council revenues.  Similarly, the opportunity to identify and develop new areas for employment and business will help stimulate the local economy.

There may be a certain reticence among a minority of traders who might fear a potential loss of trade. But this notion is largely perceptual and not actual, judging by the experience of other bypassed towns.  There is a firm belief that this would be positively offset by the benefits gained from removing unnecessary traffic - all as noted above.

Chamber of Trade dialogue is required to understand any concerns from that sector and to clarify or highlight the potential benefits of a Selkirk by-pass.

 

2.18 Environmental:

There may be a view that the introduction of a man-made construction through /across an existing green field corridor might impact upon wildlife, habitats and local usage of the area.  A route appraisal should therefore include a full assessment to consider the potential impact upon existing fauna and flora and then identify the means to ameliorate any such environmental damage or loss.

However, it is planned to use and follow natural land contours and to thereby avoid any damaging engineering impact - the proposed route is largely screened by local topography and would result in a minimal visual intrusion.

The implementation of a by-pass would thus, by contrast, preserve and help protect the built environment from further long-term deterioration from ad-hoc development

2.19 Visitors:

At present, the steady traffic movements through the town are a disincentive for visitors to stop and to seek a parking place (there is also a lack of clear signage and adequate parking facilities).

2.20 Advance signs and visitor information:

Implicit in the formation of a by-pass will be an opportunity to announce the attractions and facilities offered by Selkirk at either end of a by-pass - and perhaps at any intermediate junction points.  This will help ensure that those arriving in the area are made aware of Selkirk as a visitor destination and invite them to enjoy the benefits of a traffic calmed environment.

Those travelling to and from the Yarrow and Ettrick valleys, to St Mary’s Loch and Moffat will still divert through the town - but with an improved opportunity to enjoy a ‘peaceful’ stop off in the town.

2.21 Planning gain:

Also, an identified and protected by-pass line will positively influence the ability for Scottish Borders Council to meet the o/a targets for house building and economic growth as identified in current Development plans and current SESplan documents viz:

If the line of a by-pass route can be established in the Government’s Transport Plan, then this should enable Scottish Borders Council to identify and zone appropriate land in the local development plan.  The most positive use will be residential to help future housing allocations in the central borders, together with mixed use and employment zoning. 

An opportunity for planning gain then exists.  If (say) the line and profile are fixed and 1 or 2 key roundabout positions are identified, an opportunity arises to plan future developments around these ‘nodes’.  Individual housing areas could be developed – with each incorporating a section of the future by-pass line and then feeding into the existing road network.  Such a jigsaw process would effectively be a private sector financial contribution to the o/a cost of the by-pass project and could ultimately be linked up to achieve the final route.

3.0 Summary:

On balance, a Selkirk by-pass will be a project of enormous opportunity – with potential environmental and economic benefit to the town and central Borders.  If the project is undertaken with proper diligence, and as a full package (with advance signing, interpretation, improved internal road system and pedestrian access links) it will fundamentally enhance the visitor experience and enjoyment of Selkirk - and should hold no fears for local residents or businesses.

As already made public, the Royal Burgh of Selkirk and District Community Council, the A7 Action Group and the Selkirk Regeneration Company wish the ultimate need for a by-pass to be acknowledged and for survey work to be undertaken in order to establish the optimum line of the route and for this safeguarded route to be confirmed in the local development plans for Selkirk and the central Borders.

A Local Survey is now required to gauge current public opinion – but the debate should be led through a fair explanation of the facts and include a summary of positive/negative factors to help achieve an objective response and structured opinion.

Ian King

November 2015/

updated July 2016

 

 

 

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