Ullapool is full of organisations and committees but the local Community Council (Lochbroom CC) folded after a controversy over new allotment gardens. Some of us thought we should try again so as of last month we had an election, 15 candidates for 10 places, and I was elected chair, or as I am calling it, convener.
By coincidence a plan was afoot by Transport Scotland to widen the roadway along the iconic Shore St by narrowing the seaward pavement by a foot. Shore St is the shortest trunk road in Scotland and is part of the trunk route from Inverness to Ullapool which takes ferry traffic from the Ullapool-Stornoway ferry. Thus our front street full of tourists is the main road to Lewis, population 18500.
In the summer the new larger ferry releases 140 vehicles twice a day plus a night sailing of lorries, and these have to find their way along Shore St against the incoming tide of camper vans doing the North Coast 500, so we do have a traffic problem. Road Equivalent Tariff on the ferry has increased the traffic and there is also the issue of last minute arrivals for the ferry speeding to get on the ferry.
Traffic Scotland have told us at our inaugural meeting that the widening is on hold while we consult locally. Most people don’t want the widening because it reduces pedestrian space and is likely to speed up traffic, thereby making an accident more likely. Some of us would like a more expensive solution which would involve making a boardwalk along the seaward side of the street, on legs above the sloping sea wall. This would add an attractive place for walkers and keep them away from a widened roadway. The roadway would need in my opinion calming measures.
So the new LCC has jumped right into a controversial issue which does affect the village very much, and our input can be seen to matter. I very much hope that this will be the beginning of a constructive engagement where local people begin to take responsibility for what happens here.