A LOCHABER councillor has slammed the absence of the long-mooted Caol link road from Highland Council’s programme for the next five years.
Newcomer Andrew Baxter said he was disappointed the SNP-led coalition had made no mention of the proposed route in a major document of 128 separate points which spelled out its pledges on roads, housing and the economy.
Local authority leader Drew Hendry described the programme as “ambitious and bold” when he presented it to the full council which endorsed it at a meeting in Inverness last Thursday.
But Councillor Baxter (Fort William and Ardnamurchan) highlighted the omission of a potential link road from An Aird to Caol and onto the A830 at Blar Mhor and called for it to be included.
Councillor Baxter said he welcomed the comprehensive programme and backed most of its contents.
But he hit out at the relief road’s absence and said it was particularly disappointing because Lochaber councillors Brian Murphy, Bren Gormley and Bill Clark are all part of the political alliance which now runs the council.
Councillor Baxter said: “I would like to register my disappointment that there is not an implicit mention about an issue which affects residents across Lochaber.
“I find that particularly surprising when you have two senior members of the administration, now three, from Lochaber and that is there isn’t a specific commitment to work with partners to deliver a Fort William relief road or an A830 extension.”
The road has been talked about for more than 20 years but progress has spluttered and stalled amidst debate on whether the link, which would require a new crossing over the River Lochy and a bridge over the Fort William-Mallaig railway line at Caol, should be funded by central or local government.
Councillor Baxter said the need for the new route would increase in the next few years because of retail and amenity developments planned for the north of Fort William. The Independent councillor warned A82 improvements could push the relief road down the agenda and said there were some people who said the scheme would not see the light of day for at least 15 years.
Councillor Baxter added: “Unless we start campaigning now we will still be sitting here in 20 years’ time.”
Council convener Jimmy Gray said the administration would consider including the relief road in its programme but could not offer a firm commitment.