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'Rip it out and start again' – Castletown road crossing described as 'a dead loss'

By Gordon Calder

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Community councillor Billy Dunbar at the crossing on the Main Street.
Community councillor Billy Dunbar at the crossing on the Main Street.

A controversial road crossing in Castletown should be ripped out and replaced, a local Highland councillor has said this week.

The informal crossing point was installed after concerns were raised about the safety of children accessing the play park in the centre of the village.

Since then, it has been the site of a number of accidents and near misses, and there have been calls for a rethink about the road safety scheme.

Two of the four bollards have been knocked down and, according to Wick and Northeast Caithness councillor Willie Mackay, there has been "no progress" in getting them back up.

An independent review has been carried out and suggested more signage and road markings – but Matthew Reiss, a Thurso and Northwest Caithness councillor, says that is not the answer.

He said: "The crossing should be replaced as it is not working. The evidence is compelling. Bollards have been knocked down repeatedly. If vehicles are accidentally colliding with the signs, they could just as easily be hitting a child."

Councillor Reiss is also concerned about visually impaired people not seeing approaching vehicles and being struck.

"The safest solution is to remove the crossing and go back to the drawing board and put in a crossing similar to the one at Watten," he added. "The public will be very annoyed at the waste of money but a lot of people have been saying it is not the right solution, including myself and the community council."

Thurso and Northwest Caithness councillor Matthew Reiss has called for the crossing to be replaced. Picture: DGS
Thurso and Northwest Caithness councillor Matthew Reiss has called for the crossing to be replaced. Picture: DGS

The topic was discussed at last week's meeting of the Castletown and District Community Council, where Councillor Mackay described the crossing as "a disaster".

He said: "These crossings work in other places but it is not working here. It is a dead loss. It is a disaster."

Community councillor John Calder pointed out there have been four accidents at the crossing since it was installed less than a year ago.

Newly-elected vice-chairman Mark Thorn stated: "It is more dangerous with the crossing than without it."

Secretary Liz Geddes said the facility, which was installed by Highland Council, is "not really used" by youngsters.

Chairman Billy Dunbar, who took part in the meeting by an audio link, explained that a member of the public had described the crossing as "the biggest waste of money spent in Castletown".

Treasurer Gavin Sutherland said when the crossing was installed the entrance to the nearby play park was supposed to be made safer but nothing has been done.

Safety concerns have been raised regularly over the crossing, which was installed as a traffic-calming measure following a campaign by some local parents. It takes the form of a 'pinch point' to make the street narrower.

Two of the bollards near the play park have been knocked down and one is missing, while the other one has been flattened with a road sign lying beside it.

The community council is in favour of road safety measures but is opposed to the crossing, describing it as the wrong solution.

A Highland Council spokesman said the independent Road Safety Audit Report for Castletown has "been shared with members and our road safety team will continue to work with local members and the community to address concerns".

He added: "The recommendations outlined within report will be actioned on the ground."

The local authority previously said traffic volumes on Main Street do not meet the requirements for a formal controlled crossing.

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