Angry traders in bid to overturn decision to close tourist route
BUSINESSES are lobbying politicians over the “unfair” closure of a tourist route at weekends.
Companies in Yarrow and Ettrick Valleys were given just a week’s notice before the A708 between Selkirk and Moffat was closed last weekend.
And the popular route for bikers and Sunday drivers could be closed for tree-felling between 6am on Saturdays and 10pm on Sundays for the rest of the month.
Tibbie Shiels hotelier Alistair Moody said: “Tomorrow is the busiest day of the whole year, yet priority is been given to a private forestry firm. It is ridiculous and should be sorted out now. It is not to late to do the right thing and not close the A708 this weekend. We pay for it, and out here we miss out on a lot of other services, so this is just not fair.“
He has written to local MP and Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore protesting, and asked Scottish Borders Council Councillor Michelle Ballantyne to help.
And the valleys tourism group, too, has written to Dumfries and Galloway Council as the authority which gave the go-ahead to the closure to allow the wood harvesting near Moffat.
Mr Moody is holding a raft race and family fun day, planned for months, to raise money for the Selkirk-based charity Scottish HART at St Mary’s Loch on Saturday afternoon, followed by music by the Border Boogie Band at night. Now he does not know whether people will turn up because of “road closed” signs at Selkirk and Moffat.
“The Gordon Arms has just opened, the Yarrow Show is on, and there is a music festival at Tweedsmuir, all of which are going to be seriously affected,” he said.
The road is shut to allow Fountains Forestry to fell Shortwoodend Wood, near Moffat.
Forest manager Gavin Mann said in an email to locals that the over-mature trees on the steep slope could blow over and be a hazard to road users, and felling them would tie in with harvesting at nearby Sailfoot Forest.
At the Gordon Arms Hotel, hotelier Mac McEwen, said: “This is only our second weekend coming up, but I would say it will affect business because the signs are at Selkirk saying the road is closed and even though it says it’s open to St Mary’s Loch, people see a road closed sign and turn back.”
At the Glen Cafe near St Mary’s Loch, Kath Stephenson said: “It’s been a disaster of a summer and then when the weather comes right, they close the road.
“Our trade was halved at the weekend.
“We emailed [an official in Dumfries and Galloway Council] and said we would lose a lot of money, but I don’t think there will be any compensation.”
Yarrow and Ettrick Valleys revitalisation officer Julie Nock said: “I appreciate foresters need to maximise daylight hours and not interfere with major holidays or commuters, but it would appear local businesses potentially affected were not informed until quite late in the day.
“Early consultation could have avoided the problems the businesses are now facing.
“Several events have been planned throughout September which rely heavily on visitors from the Moffat area.
“Consultation would have allowed different plans to be made to minimise the impact.”
A Dumfries and Galloway Council official emailed businesses on Monday saying Fountains Forestry hoped to need complete closure only this weekend and to have the A708 open during the third weekend “albeit subject to delays of up to 20 minutes”.
He said he would update locals on Monday.
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Weather for Selkirk
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 15 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 5 C to 9 C
Wind Speed: 24 mph
Wind direction: North