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Highland Council secures £750K boost for active travel 'interventions' to counter Covid-19 challenges; Dingwall included in towns set for changes

By Hector MacKenzie

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A number of proposals for Dingwall are included in the plan.
A number of proposals for Dingwall are included in the plan.

PLANS for temporary walking, cycling and wheeling routes to help counteract the impact of the coronavirus crisis have taken a significant step forward.

Highland Council, supported by NHS Highland in its bid to deliver active travel "interventions" in response to the coronavirus pandemic, has been awarded £752,954 from the Scottish Government’s Spaces for People fund, administered by sustainable transport organisation, Sustrans.

Spaces for People is funded by Transport Scotland and administered by Sustrans Scotland. Spaces for People is a new, temporary infrastructure programme in Scotland which offers funding and support to make it safer for people who choose to walk, cycle or wheel for essential trips and exercise during Covid-19.

Over the coming weeks, towns across Highland – amongst them Dingwall – will see a roll-out of temporary infrastructure along priority routes.

The measures aim to ensure that people can move safely on essential journeys and whilst taking daily exercise.

They will also form a key component of village, town and city centre post-lockdown recovery strategies.

Keen to begin a conversation with communities and other stakeholders, a consultation was launched on on Highland Council’s website earlier this month to get feedback.

This has so far received 433 comments, most giving "overwhelming" support for the approach, said the local authority today. Some 85 per cent of comments support the interventions proposed.

The council says those disagreeing "are being carefully considered" by the team progressing the work. The first phase of measures will be implemented this week, with more planned over the coming weeks, being dependent on delivery of materials, plant and further engagement and design work.

Head of Infrastructure, Colin Howell said: “As we move very rapidly from bid to implementation stage, we are working hard to ensure that these measures are rolled out in a safe and inclusive way that considers all users.

"Making sure people can safely social distance and move around using active travel are our key priorities. To ensure the best chance of these interventions being effective we are rolling them out now and encourage people to provide feedback through our Council’s website so we can react to issues people raise where necessary.”

Councillor Trish Robertson, chair of economy and infrastructure committee said: “I am delighted that the Highland Council Spaces for People bid was successful. It is important that we continue to support and assist essential workers with active travel and create safe ways for people to maintain physical distancing, this may also help guide our future, given the environmental benefits in travel we have seen in recent weeks.

"These temporary measures will be flexible, and I stress that given the speed of roll out, we might not get every intervention right first time. That’s why we want to continue the conversation with our communities and would welcome feedback online to respond to how people are finding the new measures work or don’t work for them.”

Provost of the City of Inverness, Cllr Helen Carmichael said: “The announcement today is a hugely welcome result for Inverness and the wider Highland region that we hope will bring about positive change in an otherwise challenging situation.

"We know these ambitious measures in Inverness are generating debate and discussion, which is what the consultation portal is there for. I encourage everyone that uses these routes to give us their feedback now and as measures are rolled out.”

Karen McGregor, director of Sustrans Scotland, said: “It’s clear that people across Scotland want to do the right thing during Coronavirus. They want to look after their physical and mental health.They also want to make sure that they are keeping to physical distancing guidelines while still being safe on our streets.

“Providing funding support to Highland Council through our Spaces for People programme will make it easier and safer for people to travel around Inverness and other towns across the Highlands for essential travel and exercise.”

The temporary interventions proposed are available for review at The Highland Council’s website – https://consult.highland.gov.uk/kse/

The possibility of further bids into the fund are being looked at so the council invites the public to comment on issues being experienced in their local communities where further measures may be considered.

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