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Three years and counting

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By Fiona Reid
Front
Three years and counting

TODAY marks a concerning milestone for a road in Annandale.

The C61a from Waterbeck to Debate has been closed for three years today, Sunday, – with still no commitment of a date from Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN) to get the remedial works carried out.

The stretch was placed under an emergency closure in March 2019, after a reinstatement of a utilities track was deemed to have failed and the road surface became too dangerous to drive on.

Since then, there have been repeated broken promises of getting the work done and false start dates provided by SPEN.

The faltering progress has been slammed by local residents, fed up with the inconvenience and diverted traffic.

Peter Hands, speaking on behalf of Middlebie and Waterbeck Community Council (MWCC), said: “In the last three years, there have been thousands of HGVs diverted past Hottsbridge school.

“The increased traffic on the B722 led to a lengthy closure of that road, disrupting the lives of residents and local businesses for months on end.

“Roads affected during the closure of the B722 are still waiting for repair, with no target date for completion.

“MWCC have received numerous promises of the work on the C61a being about to start, but it never has.

“There is always some ‘legal problem’ that ‘just needs resolving’.

“If our council and the developers really cared about the local community, in the way that developers always say they care when a new project is planned, then this road would have been repaired and reopened long ago.”

The lengthy delay has also been branded ‘extraordinary’ by a local MSP.

Oliver Mundell was involved in the issues long before the closure was put in place, as he tried to work as an intermediary between the local authority and SPEN.

This week he said: “Whilst there were issues over who should contribute to repair costs, based on past heavy commercial usage and windfarm cable-laying operations where the road was not considered reinstated to a high enough standard, this should have been dealt with as a far higher council priority.

“The route’s ‘C’ designation, in my opinion, does not reflect the importance of this road as a previously well-used connection between two busy ‘B’ routes.”

And he vowed to take up the concerns again.

A week after the original closure was invoked in 2019, a SPEN spokeswoman said they were working closely with the local authority and stated: “We remain committed in agreeing a full time solution.”

Initial investigations into the cause of the failure, where the road was found to have sunk by 25mm, were carried out and the required work has been acknowledged in several council committee papers.

In 2019/20 Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Infrastructure Capital Programme saw Carruthers Bridge included for repairs, and SPEN said they had to wait for this to conclude before they could begin.

In October 2020, a spokeswoman for SPEN confirmed they hoped to have ‘a comprehensive plan and agreement of timescale and scope of works available by the end of the month’.

And once the works on Carruthers Bridge were complete, the spokeswoman said: “We are set to begin work to reinstate the road shortly. We estimate that this work will take four weeks and will be completed by mid-December 2020 returning the road to its original condition.”

This week, SPEN provided another vague update.

A spokeswoman said: “We’re very sorry that the work on the C61a has not been completed and we recognise the frustration of residents and regular users of the road who, rightly, have expected this to be done much sooner.

“We remain committed to completing this work with our partners to ensure the road is in a better condition than it was previously and we will be in touch with the local community and stakeholders to inform them of the start date and timeline.”

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