Notes take from the public meeting on 16 February 2019

CRIEFF SUCCEEDS BID LIMITED, Public Meeting, Lecture Hall, Crieff Campus, Saturday, 16th February 2019, 10.30 am

Chair: Roseanna Cunningham, MSP (RC)
Attendance – BID: Chairman; Manager (DM); 5 Board Members; Marketing & Communications Manager; Minutes Secretary
PKC: Councillors Brock, Donaldson and McCall
SGN: Team of three, led by Bob Falconer (BF)
53 members of the public – levy payers/concerned residents

1. General introduction (RC)

• Welcome to large audience and acknowledgment of BID initiative
• Reference to Remake traffic survey, which indicated a catastrophic loss to the town if southern access was denied
• Opportunity for exchange of information/views and controlled debate
• Starting point – the gas infrastructure is urgently in need of replacement, and the completed programme will be to Crieff’s advantage
• However, there are acknowledged issues/difficulties to be discussed – SGN are here to respond

2. BID Presentation (DM)

• SGN claim that they have been forced to respond to the Crieff rumour-mill regarding the proposed closure of the Earn Bridge. There are no rumours. Public concern is based on statements from SGN both in formal meetings and in comments to the press which contradict the current consultation line “The bridge will only be closed as a last resort”.
• BID is of course primarily concerned to represent the businesses. However, closing the bridge will affect the whole community, as well as the wider Upper Strathearn area, and must be seen as an issue for the whole community to address.
• BID has issued a economic impact survey to all levy payers, and to date 80 businesses have responded
• The presentation is based on the survey results. These demonstrate overwhelming anxiety about the economic impact of any closure, supported by estimated losses. A closure during the summer (June/July/August) would be particularly damaging.
• BID has engaged the professional services of a civil engineer, and has received a report which offers alternative suggestions. This has been submitted to SGN, but to date has not been acknowledged by them.
• Despite SGN’s lack of transparency and failure to communicate, BID remains anxious to engage constructively with them and work towards an agreed solution to the benefit of the whole community

3. SGN Response (BF)

• Though not directly involved in the management of the present project, a member of the senior management team
• Regrets the failure to respond to the BID survey – will pursue
• BF stated that he agreed that the bridge should not be closed but that the work does have to be done.

Q & A’s

Q  – Your colleagues have just told me that at no point will the bridge be closed. Is this true?
A  – No. At this juncture, I cannot give a cast-iron assurance that the bridge will not be closed.

Q – The pipe line doesn’t need to cross the river via the bridge, there are other options including rerouting it under the river.
A – The bridge is only part of the problem. The narrow dog-leg on North Bridge Street, the approach to the bridge, is the pinch-point. SGN has still to carry out a preliminary survey to establish exactly where the pipe runs, and how this impacts on other services. Regarding the rerouting, I’m not sure we would get permission from SEPA to do this.

Q – When is this work scheduled to take place?
A – The planned date for this job is not fixed yet and I’m getting the clear message, not in the summer. An application for the works has not yet been submitted to PKC, and the timescale is uncertain until they have responded. However, it is hoped to submit this within the next six weeks.
Councillor McCall indicated that PKC would give an early response to the application – “within 7 days”.

Q – Rerouting must be a serious option. Are you considering it?
A – We’re looking at it.

Q – Can you say now that you are taking a closure during June/July/August off the table?
A – It doesn’t make any sense to be doing this work in June, July, August or September but it would be wholly wrong of me to give you a cast iron guarantee of this.

Q – If a closure is essential, will the contractors work double shifts and all hours?
A – We have also to minimise the impact on local residents so this may not be possible.

Q – Our bakery business sustained heavy losses during the King Street closure. We were told we could claim compensation, and looked into this. First of all, SGN lost our application. They then told us that under the relevant legislation, we didn’t qualify.
A – Compensation is not my area.

Q – What about commuters, the majority of whom travel south to Dunblane, Stirling, Glasgow, Edinburgh. Any re-routing via the A85 will put pressure on Broxden, already at capacity. I’ve been told by your colleagues that traffic management will be out-sourced. Will there be an objective survey?
A – Broxden is certainly an issue and although this is a Crieff issue it does have an impact on the whole local road network with pressure on the local network of minor roads a major concern. We will need to request an impact assesment from the Council. As there are three Councillors in attendance please consider yourselves told.

Q – Can you assure us that you will not be undertaking any work during the summer months? We have a major orienteering event in the summer which will bring thousands of people every day to Crieff. We cannot afford for there to be any road works at this time.
A – I was not aware of this event and it gives a further reason to not close the road during the summer. Any preparatory work should be completed by this time but I cannot guarantee that there won’t be any work at this time.

Q – Of course we’ll be delighted if the bridge isn’t closed, but how much is there in the pot? On the basis of what you’ve heard today, will you be recommending to the SGN Board that additional funding is made available because the people of Crieff want you to find another route?
A – I’m currently not having discussions as to what it will or will not cost.

Q – If SGN cannot rule out a bridge closure. Will there be pedestrian access?
A – Yes.

Q – Would SGN consider providing parking at the south end of the bridge (former Stuart Crystal shop) with shuttle bus provision?
A – A number of issues would have to be resolved for this to happen and I’m not sure how viable this would be.

Q – We’ve heard that individual compensation is difficult to obtain. What about a community benefit scheme? It’s common practice for large companies to provide this by way of mitigation, does SGN run a similar scheme.
A – SGN does operate such a scheme. I can look into it.

Q – Who will actually make the decisions on all of this, who are the other SGN senior managers involved in this project? You don’t seem keen to provide names
A – Not at all. There is the General Manager, Ian Stewart and also Lindsay Taylor.

Q – So can you provide us with their contact details, email addresses, phone numbers etc?
A – You should see me as your contact point – I will forward your comments onto them

Q – Will there be a full economic impact assessment?
A – That would be for PKC to implement.

Q – If extended hours working is seen as unacceptable by local residents, SGN should provide overnight accommodation elsewhere.
A – This works for an odd night but I’m not sure would be possible in these circumstances

Q – If we remain unhappy at SGN’s response, do we have any recourse through the Scottish Government?
A – Probably not. The Councillors agreed to look into it.

Statements

Statement: You must carry out the preparatory survey and then come back to us. Any closure of an “A” road requires re-routing by another “A” road.
Statement: Businesses on the Muthill road, including farms, will have to rewrite their insurance policies because of fire risk and the lack of access for the emergency services.

Statement RC: However, it’s evident that the SGN bureaucracy is not functioning well. The Local Authority must be more proactive in managing the project.

Statement: SGN and PKC need to work together on signage in the event of a closure. We must also consider the travelling public. The A822 is signed at Greenloaning as the tourist route to Pitlochry and encourages many people to take this route to Crieff.

Statement: I’m a business owner in King Street. I had no prior information about the work and the road closure – the first I knew of it was the general sign outside my business announcing that the road would be closed in two days’ time for six weeks. I also observed the way in which the work was carried out – the men were in no hurry to get the job done.

The Meeting closed at 11.35 a.m.