The damage caused to the region’s roads by timber traffic is to be probed by Scottish Borders Council’s watchdog scrutiny committee.
“This a hugely important issue which affects nearly every ward,” said scrutiny chairman Councillor Gavin Logan after the committee agreed last week to carry out the review.
Councillor Logan continued: “Some other local authorities are apparently trying to get compensation for the damage caused to their rural roads, but we need the evidence if we are to make a any sort of case.
“Time is really of the essence and I would hope the review can take place before the end of this year and that our recommendations are taken on board by the council.”
A recent Audit Scotland report revealed that the deterioration in the condition of the Borders road network has been faster over the past three years than in any of Scotland’s 31 other local authority areas.
“The extent of variation ranged from an improvement in acceptable conditions of 11% in Comhairle nan Eilean Siar [Western Isles] to a deterioration of 9% in Scottish Borders Council,” stated the report.
Despite the council allocating an extra £500,000 in this financial year to road repairs and maintenance – bringing the annual total spend to £4.2m – 42% of the 750km if C roads in the region and 57% of the 1,150km of unclassified roads are currently in need of repair, compared to Scottish-wide averages of 37% and 39% respectively.
And although only a contributory factor, the timber transport sector, which is worth around £50 million per year to the Scottish economy and also supports around 1,200 full-time jobs, makes no direct financial contribution to the repair of these roads.
The scrutiny review has come at the request of Councillor George Turnbull who represents the widely afforested Hawick and Hermitage ward on Scottish Borders Council.
“At meetings of community councils, especially rural ones, timber transport is a running sore and we see for ourselves the damage to road surfaces and verges, we hear about issues of noise and convoying and of rural roads being blocked while stacked timber is loaded onto lorries,” said Mr Turnbull.
He added the warning that: “The inadequacy of roads, some of which were built for the horse and cart, is something which can no longer been ignored.”