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Auldearn community seeks transport solution as Nairn bypass wait goes on

By Federica Stefani

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Plans to limit traffic in a Nairnshire village have gone to public consultation this month as the community is eager to find solutions to heavy traffic and speeding problems.

With plans for a Nairn bypass seemingly on hold, the community in Auldearn has taken action by working with Highland Council and Police Scotland to reduce speeding cars and traffic congestion in the village, which is used as an "unofficial Nairn bypass".

A series of proposals for traffic calming measures – which include several raised tables and speed cushions as well as a 20mph speed limit throughout the village and a change of road signs to re-direct traffic – are now going under public consultation, to which residents are encouraged to respond before the deadline on July 31.

Auldearn Community Council's secretary, Ian Sikora, said: "Auldearn has got an issue in that it has become what we've come to term as the unofficial Nairn bypass.

"Because of its position and on the Cawdor Road the traffic will turn off on the A96 in the Ardersier area and go around to Cawdor, then pass via Auldearn to re-join the A96 to avoid going through Nairn.

However, concerns have been raised about speeding vehicles, especially at times when children are crossing the road to get to the local primary school.

Mr Sikora said: "Every parent with children going at Auldearn primary will have some horror stories of a vehicle that has failed to stop at the zebra crossing.

"As residents, you are always waiting for something bad to happen as the traffic volume increases. The bypass would of course make the situation better but what we are trying to do now - and we are fully aware that the planning and politics behind the bypass we don't see it as a realistic solution on the short to medium term so we are trying to find other ways to solve these problems."

After many years living with the issue and with locals trying to find solutions, things escalated after a community council member got in touch with Fergus Ewing MPS.

"Shortly after, we were invited to join a meeting with people working on a more official level, a couple of chief inspectors at Police Scotland and some of Highland Council's road safety team as well," said Mr Sikora.

"We were then invited to meetings on teams, and it quickly became a very productive group of people."

He said they were really encouraged and satisfied to be in a position of possibly rolling out the first solutions one year on from when the meetings first started.

"It's been particularly productive unusual from my experience to be working at this kind of speed.

"It's nice to hopefully be able to deal with issues that the community has bee dealing with for such a long time."

According to the proposals on the public consultation website, speed cushions are being proposed on Lethen Road (near the George Wilson Road junction), on Forres Road and on the High Street west of the Boath Road Junction.

The Zebra crossing in front of the school would be elevated with a raised table and another raised table is proposed o the B9101 Forres Road (east of the Montrose Avenue junction) and one on the B9111 Auchnacloich to Auldearn Road.

Mr Sikora added that another element will be an alternative route scheme to be implemented by altering the road signs – encouraging drivers to turn left before entering the village from the road connecting it to Cawdor to rejoin the A96, thus avoiding entering the village and remaining on a National Speed Limit road.

Mr Sikora said that in past months they have been contacting some of the companies whose heavy goods vehicles pass more regularly through the village, with some good cooperation from the drivers so far.

"We hope these measures will be implemented during summer and it's really good in a period of 12 months to be in the position of having these proposals and hopefully have them implemented soon.

Road Safety Officer Ian Graham, who has been liaising with the community council on the project, said: "We've had positive feedback in relation to the scheme at the moment.

"By introducing these measures we hope to make Auldearn a safer place and just trying to make it a much more vibrant community in terms of active travel.

"The council takes pride in working with communities throughout the Highland area – we have done traffic calming and speed limit measures in Thurso, Wick and down to Fort William and elsewhere."

He said that Highland Council will be monitoring the progress and effects of the proposals after they ave been implemented to look for possible improvements or changes required.

Any person wishing to comment or object to the proposals can get in touch with Road Safety Officers Ian Graham via email at road.safety@highland.gov.uk or post specifying the grounds of the objection.

The relevant documents and further information are available at highland.gov.uk/directory_record/2001761/auldearn_srts_scheme.

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