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It’s time to solve Lanark’s traffic dilemma – and we already have the solution

 

In Lanark the local businesses have campaigned to encourage the town centre to be the highlight for a shopping experience. They are competing with the internet, major stores and supermarkets. Such is life, so they need to come up with something unique - for which I can see no evidence.

They are crippled by the parking in Lanark. The infamous streetscape reduced High Street parking, limited the flow through the High Street and hindered a lot of casual shoppers. Parking is available but it is often argued that South Lanarkshire Council have not played their part in telling visitors where they are after 30 years of protests!

However local shops still close on holidays, killing the town centre and affecting the other shops that need the holiday money. The quieter the town, the less traffic these open shops get.

Is the Business Group really caring about those outside the town centre? I am not so sure.

The latest pronouncements from the Community Council is that they would like to re-engage with the idea of a bypass for Lanark. This is something they famously held a public meeting in the Memorial Hall to discuss, only to shoot the concept to pieces! The then chairman famously said she was not going to have her town ruined by a silly wee boy from Hamilton!

The winning argument against at that time seemed to be based on three facts. Firstly, traffic in the town centre was not through traffic, but nearly 90% was generated by people who wanted to visit the town. Secondly, bypassing the town centre is bad for local trade. Ask anyone in Carluke how it worked for them and the evidence is there. Thirdly, the proposed bypass was to pass through the centre of Lanark, thereby splitting the community.

The Community Council later supported the streetscape project. This involved making the pavements wider, reducing the width of the High Street to a single lane. This returned a dual carriageway to what was suitable for horse and carts. The very thing their Chairman complains about now!

The streetscape construction reduced the income for local shops by around 25% for two years. It caused severe damage to the businesses in the town and was driven by a hand-picked group of local people and strongly supported by the Guildry of Lanark. Why they ever entered into a political discussion is history. They were eager pawns in a political set up. Their demise is testament to the way they let the Burgh down, and their numbers at their annual dinner tell it all. From a waiting list at the Silver Bell to less than 50 participants. Being used as a political tool to see the streetscape through was a disgrace and the status of the Guildry must work hard to recover the respect and admiration of the Royal Burgh.

The traffic lights at the top cross cause massive disruption. The crazy diagonal crossing from Oxfam to the north side of the High Street delays all traffic by 30 seconds. Traffic flowing down from St Leonard Street to the High Street can delay for a further two minutes. That may not sound a lot, but if the visitors are busy these delays adds to the queues that can tail back to the Mansefield Garage and beyond.

South Lanarkshire Council, who designed and approved the streetscape, are experts in their field. Perhaps they can solve the mess at the top of the High Street. Dugald McDonald used to be the Burgh Surveyor for the Town Council and he finally became a district Councillor. He had a plan for his ‘magic roundabout’ to alleviate the problem at the Oxfam area. Let’s have another look at what he proposed -that made a lot of sense - and fix this problem once and for all.

But have I spoken too soon? Just as I was completing this submission, I was stunned to discover that traffic was flowing well with none of the queues I described. Would I have to withdraw my criticism and write about something different? The answer revealed itself as I approached Oxfam. The traffic lights were off and there were only a couple of cars waiting to move! Game, set and match to View from the Cross!

Guildry, Community Council, South Lanarkshire Council candidates, the Business Group and the Development Trust - you should now lobby to have this issue resolved quickly and at little expense. It is not only an economical disaster, but an environmental one too. That is why a station exists there to measure pollution.

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The shock for the Development Trust being knocked back for their £500,000 bid to refurbish the old sawmill at Castlebank seems rather strange to me. I would predict that some of the houses in St Patrick’s Road close to the brick building across the road would never raise £500,000. Who comes up with these figures?

It seems that a grant is easily given to achieve the feasibility study, often running to well over £1,000! This needs to be in place before the application goes any further. The Development Trust have used these grants for many projects. This crazy cost was correctly knocked back and the Development Trust were devastated! Why? Do they never do their homework first, or do they just push forward with their precious Vision?

To their credit they are now producing a revised plan at a well reduced cost. Good luck to them, but next time sort out the cost then apply for the grant. That is how it works!

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With Lanimer Week on the horizon I would like to congratulate Iain Hughes once again on being selected as the Lord Cornet-elect for this year.

Iain has worked hard for Lanark Rugby Club. The club has been resurrected due to his input and many young people are getting involved and gaining much for the experience.

If someone is given the honour of being the Lord Cornet-elect there can be two reactions. One is humility and the other is to assume you are the most important person in the town.

You are there to fill a role that has existed for centuries and you have to play your part. Lots of folk will be there to support you and their help and advice is invaluable.

There is sometimes a danger. Being the main man in Lanark can sometimes fill you with grand ideas. You can suddenly think you are more important than the office you have been chosen to fill. But Iain is not like that. Iain is a team player. He is not alone when it comes to the success of Lanark Rugby Club. Working with others is one of his skills and I am delighted he has agreed to take this important role on. As always there will be a queue of well wishers happy to assist in making 2017 a very special year for Iain and his family.

I would love to be a Lord Cornet but seem not to be in the frame. I cannot ride, I hate speaking in public and I am always complaining!