Damage to the Baleshare causeway in Uist has left the vital crossing “extremely dangerous and high risk,” say local campaigners.
Baleshare Causeway Group member Ann Maclean says there is an “urgent need for intervention from the Scottish Government.”
The causeway, the group says, is “no longer fit for purpose” due to floods and hidden debris.
“The council do not have the budget to replace or upgrade this decaying structure,” she says.
‘No immediate concerns’, say Comhairle
A representative from the Comhairle says they are “aware of local concerns over the Baleshare Causeway”.
They are “engaging with community representatives with regard to these concerns and impacts”.
However, the Comhairle says there are “no immediate concerns” over the causeway.
“This will remain under review.”
The Comhairle acknowledged that recent “significant high tides” have “highlighted issues of resilience”.
‘Issues of resilience’
Local people had hoped that the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund could provide support for improvements to the causeway.
But after the bids from the Outer Hebrides were rejected for the second time, they must now turn to their local politicians for help.
The Baleshare Causeway Group met with Na h-Eileanan an Iar MSP Alasdair Allan and MP Angus MacNeil to discuss the issue.
Originally built in the 1960s, the structure, which links to North Uist, was flawed from the start, the Baleshare Causeway Group claims.
‘The only causeway in Uist not to be upgraded’
It doesn’t have a culvert, which would allow water to pass underneath the causeway, helping to prevent floods.
The group believes that “the Baleshare causeway is the only causeway in Uist not to be upgraded” since then.
More than 20 years have passed since the causeway received any new works.
Over that time it has had to weather everything from 2005’s brutal storm to increasing amounts of traffic.
And now it is said there are increasing numbers of campervans, bin lorries, fuel tankers, large feed lorries and much bigger and heavier tractors.
As a result, the group says, the causeway “is no longer able to cope with the increasing strain being put on an old and fragile structure.”
‘Police, ambulance and fire services can’t get down’
Damage to the causeway means “island residents can often be cut off during bad weather,” the group says.
“Essential carers can’t get to clients who are very much in need of their services. Kids can’t get to school. Police, ambulance and fire services can’t get down.”
“Anyone with a job to get to cannot get to work, impacting not only on the Baleshare residents, but also the wider community.”
MSP Alasdair Allan confirmed that he had met with the group. He has been “raising the matter with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Government.”
The situation, he says, “will have to be rectified at some point.”
The causeway “needs work to ensure this little community can be sustainable into the future.”
Transport Scotland said the causeway is the responsibility of the local authority.
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