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'Learn from past mistakes' when it comes to Highlands' road network

By Scott Maclennan

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Highland Council has been urged not to 'repeat the mistakes of the past' by under-investing in roads as the local authority rubber stamped a further £9 million as part of the Highland Roads Recovery programme.

Funding for the keynote policy was ramped up in this year’s budget but still fell far short of the so-called steady state – keeping the roads no worse or no better than they are now.

The local authority has come under increased pressure in recent weeks having twice been referred to statutory agencies – the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman and the Scottish Road Works Commissioner – over its performance dealing with roads maintenance.

Members of the Environment and Infrastructure Committee agreed at their latest meeting to the proposed distribution of an additional £9 million allocation for infrastructure improvements as part of phases two and and three.

The distribution of cash had already largely been agreed at a meeting of the full council in June, and at an earlier meeting of the committee, so phases two and three funding would be split between roads or structures and plant or machinery.

That will see £6.5 million spent on infrastructure like bridges and passing places over the next two financial years and £2.5 million on roads, plant and machinery over the same period and any underspend will be carried forward into the next financial year.

Already, the council has seen the arrival of three out of the five new JCB Pothole Pro plant vehicles and two further machines are on the way, currently on the production line – the total cost for all five is £1 million.

Chairwoman of the committee, Councillor Trish Robertson, said: “It is fantastic to see such excellent progress being made on the Highland roads recovery.

“Additional capital spend throughout the area must also be welcomed and we are thankful to local members for their work in identifying priorities.”

SNP Councillor for Tain and Easter Ross Derek Louden welcomed the investment but urged colleagues and staff to recognise that the reason for many of the issues faced was underfunding.

“If we can get away from cold tar and move to something with a proven track record of last we really want to move in that direction in the years ahead. So we welcome the investment,” he said.

“Every time I meet with the roads team from my own area I apologise to them – we haven’t given you the money to do the job and the condition of the roads now is the result of many years of under-investment.

“So we have to make sure that we don’t repeat that mistake in the years to come.”

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