Highlands & Islands

Landowner's concerns about re-routing A890 in Wester Ross

Loch Carron Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The A890 serves communities on and close to Loch Carron

A major landowner has raised concerns about part of a key road in Wester Ross being re-routed through his estate.

The A890 at Stromeferry is prone to landslides, which have in the past shut the road for months at a time.

Highland Council has suggested that the cheapest solution would be to realign the road through Glen Udalain on the Attadale Estate.

But the estate owner Ewen MacPherson has told BBC Radio Scotland the new road would impact on his home.

Attadale Estate has previously warned Highland Council of its opposition to the Glen Udalain route, which the local authority expects would cost £85m or less to construct.

Minutes of a meeting held in March 2013, obtained by the BBC under Freedom of Information, show that estate representatives told the local authority and its consultants that the estate would "resist as strongly as possible" this realignment of the A890.

Other options include a bridge costing about £100m and a tunnel alongside a railway on the south side of Loch Carron, which has been estimated at £171m and is less favoured by the council.

Rocky road

The A890 helps to connect the villages of Lochcarron to Plockton.

But the road's Stromeferry bypass is vulnerable to landslips and rockfalls.

One landslide closed the bypass for four months - from 22 December 2011 to 23 April 2012. It cost Highland Council £2.8m to deal with the aftermath of the incident.

When the bypass is closed, drivers face having to take a 140-mile (225km) diversion, instead of the usual 18 miles (29km) from Lochcarron to Plockton.

Mr MacPherson told BBC Radio Scotland this week that he remained concerned by the plans, but was open to dialogue with Highland Council.

He said: "I would prefer it didn't go through here.

"It would cut through the estate quite close to the house so it would have a fairly strong impact on views. It would also run right past our gardens and as the main route to the west it would have a fairly high volume of traffic."

He said he believed there were better options available and urged the council not just to opt for the cheapest one.

Mr MacPherson said: "Personally I think a tunnel would be best along the current route."

He said there could be disadvantages to the Glen Udalain route during the winter months because it would "go up a steep north-facing slope".

The landowner added: "It's not a cut-and-dried issue. There could be economic advantages to the estate from the road coming through here, and it will ultimately be down to my successor."

Image copyright Highland Council
Image caption Caithness, Sutherland and Ross MSP Gail Ross supports the Glen Udalain route

Highland Council said consultation exercises on possible solutions had revealed "strong opinions" on all the options.

A spokeswoman said: "It is likely that whatever route is selected that there will be opposition - and as such the need to progress a compulsory purchase may be necessary.

"The Attadale Estate has fully engaged with the consultation process and the council has good relations with them.

"It is clear that their preference is for an alternative route, but they have made it clear that they are very supportive that a solution to the issues at Strome is delivered."

'Safety issue'

Caithness, Sutherland and Ross MSP Gail Ross said she understood the concerns of the estate, but added that local communities were reliant on the A890 and want to see improvements.

She said: "In times of austerity cost has to be paramount but over and above that we are talking about a serious, serious safety issue here.

"This is a huge safety issue. We have children going to school along this route so I think this goes far beyond whether the Attadale Estate are going to be put out by a road.

"We need to get round the table, we need to discuss it with the estate and the Highland Council and come up with the best solution for everyone, but I am afraid that in my opinion that is the bypass via Glen Udalain."

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