'It's in the wrong place' – resident hits out at council for 'wasting money' on Wick bottleneck street
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An elderly man talked to the John O'Groat Journal about perceived dangers and access issues at a controversial turning point in a dead-end street in Wick.
Eighty-year-old Pat Nicol has been a resident at the same house in Macleod Road for 56 years and condemns Highland Council for its recent work to create a turning point on the road as "not fit for purpose, unusable and in the wrong place".
"When the [Hillhead] school closed and it was demolished, Caithness Klics got the title deeds for the playgroup that was in there and they moved the gate out so it left no turning point for residents, fire, ambulance or the bucket lorries – the bucket lorry has to reverse up and it's a danger with all the kids playing," said Mr Nicol.
He describes the area at the end of the street as a "bottleneck" where vehicles, especially larger ones, have trouble manoeuvring back out onto Hillhead Road.
The issue started not long after Hillhead primary school was closed and Caithness Klics, a young carers' charity project on Macleod Road, installed a gate at its base that stopped all but staff from using its car parking facilities to make turns. The street effectively became a dead end without effective means to manoeuvre back out.
Mr Nicol added: "Last year, the council employed a local contractor to revamp the outdated playing fields, installing lots of new equipment. But they didn't foresee the increased volume of traffic this would cause – at peak times it was chaos with nowhere to turn plus the fact the street is now full of potholes."
He says that if the turning point was moved 20 yards further up the street and opposite the entrance to Caithness Klics then that "would solve the problem". When council staff finished work on a fence around the playpark recently they were forced to go up to the school area to turn "which proves the point", he further claims.
"Emergency vehicles and the bin lorry still have to reverse up from Hillhead Road, which is a hazard in itself plus the fact residents can't use it for private cars. It's been, as I said, a total waste of money." The problem has been exacerbated by the amount of cars parking along the road which can make attempts to successfully use the turning area very difficult.
"The cart has been put before the horse, a proper turning point should have been made, then the playing fields installed. The engineer should be taken to task over this fiasco.
"To sum up, many thousands of pounds have been spent on something councillor Jan McEwan refers to as a 'joke'."
Wick and East Caithness councillor Jan McEwan has been embroiled in the long-standing issue at Macleod Road for some time and in a letter to Evan Sinclair from the council's Amenities Services (North) late last year said it was "really not much of a turning point, and not very well thought out". There were also concerns about a children's slide being too close to an incline around the turning area.
Proposals to move the slide fell on deaf ears at Highland Council, however. A council spokesperson said: “The turning area has been moved to outside the fall space recommended for this slide so there are no safety issues with it, as the fence is going to be installed outside the safety fall space of the slide. There are no plans to move the slide.”
Cllr McEwan visited the site to assess the issues several weeks ago and was asked if she had any further comment on the matter. "I have nothing more to add, except it is really not fit for purpose and I would strongly invite Highland Council to have another think about extending the turning point and making it more effective to motorists using the area," she said.
Mr Nicol added: "I shudder to think what all this cost. I have yet to see anyone using it [the turning area]."