Saturday, 3 December 2011

When’s A Bypass Not A Bypass?

When it’s a “trunk link road link”.

Inverness, queen of the Highland fleshpots, has boomed in recent years with gargantuan amounts of suburban sprawl. A “Southern Distributor Road” was created linking the Inshes roundabout (near the A9, Police HQ, supermarket, business park and Raigmore Hospital) with these Brookside (does anyone remember the soap that begat Hollyoaks?) style estates, skirting the south side of the city and eventually ending at a roundabout on the Dores road.

That roundabout on the Dores road for years featured an optimistic turn off dead end suggesting further development towards the River Ness was planned. So far another Tesco has popped up.
Highland Council are consulting yet again on plans to extend the distributor road - sorry, trunk link road - across the river and the Caledonian Canal and connect with the A82 road to Lochaber. They’re calling it the West Link. The Inverness Courier has even run regular articles on the issue with the strapline: Build the Bypass. The Courier and others in the media keep referring to it being ‘long awaited’ and how it will ‘cut congestion’.

But as the council’s planning chief confirmed this week, it’s not a bypass. It’s purely to enable further suburban sprawl development. And of course evidence elsewhere shows if you build more roads you get more congestion.

Scottish Government aren’t offering a bean as they don’t see it being of strategic importance. The stats support this view. Only a third of the traffic on the A82 in Inverness is through-traffic. In other words the vast majority of the traffic causing congestion in the city centre is local. Surely the answer is to cut the congestion, ie reduce car use perhaps by investing in decent public transport or cycle routes? This would have the added benefit of reducing people’s fuel costs, cutting air pollution, making streets around our schools safer and maybe helping some folk get a bit of exercise. But sadly, no, that’s not an option the council have considered.

Instead they want to spend tens of millions of pounds of Highland Council tax-payers’ cash on a road that isn’t a bypass, isn’t of strategic importance and is purely to help developers who aren’t short of a bob or two. I can think of better uses for my money! Can you?

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