Storm damage takes its toll on Highland roads
16th January 2020
Storm Brendan has taken its toll on roads and infrastructure across the Highlands.
Localised flooding, wind and ice has caused damage to roads, paths, car parks and walls in numerous areas including Applecross, Lochaber and Caithness and Sutherland. This week's storm follows recent severe weather causing two significant landslides which closed roads in South Skye and Rasaay, temporarily cutting off communities and costing thousands in debris clearance and road repairs.
The Highland Council has the longest road network in the UK with 4,000 miles of local roads, 1,000 miles of footpaths and 1,400 bridges spanning a region covering one third of Scotland. The extensive road infrastructure presents significant maintenance challenges to the Council and severe weather events result in significant additional costs which put more pressure on the limited roads budget.
Budget Leader Councillor Alister Mackinnon said: "Local roads are vital to connecting our communities and keeping them sustainable. The condition of roads is a high priority for local residents and this is very clear in all our engagement with communities.
"We have the most extensive network of roads in the UK and added to this, we are faced with some of the most severe weather conditions here in the Highlands. Flooding and freeze-thaw conditions, which we have seen in recent days causes immense damage to road surfaces and this adds to the already immense maintenance costs of our infrastructure. Climate change will only increase the impact of weather damage creating an additional burden on our resources.
Depute Leader Alasdair Christie set out the need for further investment. He added: "Our entire roads network is vital to our rural communities and lifeline services. Every penny invested in maintaining this critical network also helps to support our tourism and business economy as well as improve connectivity for everyone in the Highlands.
“We allocated an extra £1.5M to roads as part of last year's budget and we want to be in a position to invest more in such improvements. It would cost many millions to get the roads across our entire network into top condition. It is therefore vital that the Scottish Government recognises the real impact of climate change in the Highlands and the need for this investment when setting its budget next month."
Damage at Applecross
The first meeting of The Highland Council's new Housing and Property Committee will take place on Wednesday 29 January following a decision by members in December to approve the establishment of a new strategic committee structure. The first item on the agenda for members will be to confirm the role and remit of this newly established committee which will be chaired by Lochaber Councillor, Ben Thompson.
Highland councillors will be asked a the meeting on 29th January 2020 of the newly created Housing and Property committee to agree to increase council house rents by 3% for 2021. This would result in an increase in the average weekly council house rent from £75.38 to £77.64 (£2.26 per week).
Highland Council must make significant savings and change the way it delivers services to ensure it can live within its financial means. A report by the Accounts Commission, Scotland's local authority watchdog, says in recent years the council has had a poor record of delivering on savings.
The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) has launched a campaign to persuade the Finance Secretary Derek Mackay MSP to invest in Scotland's councils before it is too late. COSLA has produced a briefing document Invest in Essential Services which clearly shows the reduction to Local Government funding since 2013/14 and how the flexibility councils have to spend their budget has been eroded by the Scottish Government.
Local authorities are to be given new powers to regulate short-term lets where they decide this is in the interests of local communities. Housing Minister Kevin Stewart announced measures in the Scottish Parliament to provide local authorities with the ability to implement a licensing scheme for short-term lets from spring 2021.
Big-hearted Highland Council staff and members have dug deep into their pockets at an already expensive time of year to help two important charities in the region. Staff at Highland Council headquarters have been fundraising for the Highland Hospice through a charity raffle, coffee morning and staff pantomime.
The Highland Council is reminding householders and businesses to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible over the festive period to prevent unnecessary waste. Christmas is often a time of excess waste, particularly when it comes to food.
The Highland Council notifies its service users and customers of its opening hours and service arrangements over the festive period. The Highland Council Service Centre will close at 4pm on 24 December 2019.
Highland Council will be testing the market by contacting prospective contractors (scheduled to be sent out 6th January 2020) to give notice that a procurement for the Corran ferry service may be coming forward. A questionnaire will seek the views of suppliers and potential suppliers of ferry services to the Council.
A FUNDING package worth in excess of £650,000 is in place to help in the regeneration of Wick town centre. Wick and East Caithness councillors Raymond Bremner and Nicola Sinclair revealed the details at meeting of key stakeholders on Monday night.
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