A proposal to look at speeding up £640,000 of improvement work at a notorious Aberdeen junction was dismissed by councillors this week, over concerns about “raising expectations” for residents and the impact on other important infrastructure projects in the city.
The Shielhill Road junction with the B999 Potterton to Bridge of Don road has caused complaints from residents for years due to the many cars and heavy goods vehicles that “thunder” along it, close to people’s homes.
The city council considers the junction “sub-standard”, and that it is “presenting difficulties” for road users.
At the start of last year, planning was underway for the improvement project which will involve reconfiguring and realigning the B999 and C19C Shielhill Road junction along with visibility improvement.
However the pandemic threw plans into disarray, and work was not started.
The council’s road service teams and resources from other capital projects were redistributed to responding to the pandemic with the Spaces for People programme, but now that Spaces for People is in a “more operational phase”, work on the Shielhill changes has restarted.
Councillors were this week presented with an indicative timeline of milestones for the project, with design and preparation work earmarked for 2021/22, land assembly in 2022/23, and construction in 2023/24, assuming that voluntary acquisition of land is possible.
But during this week’s Capital Programme Committee, the SNP members put forward an amendment, seeking to instruct officers to “investigate the feasibility of bringing forward design works at the earliest opportunity”, and start discussions with relevant landowners “at the earliest opportunity”.
Bridge of Don councillor Alison Alphonse, of the SNP, said to the committee: “The two homeowners that live next to the junction, their lives are intolerable with the hundreds of cars, vans and heavy lorries that thunder along Sheilhill Road, causing parts of the road near to their home to subside.
“The stone dyke on Shielhill Road is also in poor condition, there’s boulders that have dislodged and fallen onto the road, and I’m quite concerned that could cause a serious accident.”
She continued: “I feel it’s dragged on for such a long time.
“I’m age 60, and learned to drive on that road when I was 17, and it’s the same road, and we’ve now got the guts of 1,000 houses there, and probably at least two cars per household so I’m quite concerned.”
Developer contributions and funding
Preliminary work on the project discovered that developer contributions secured as part of granting planning consent for the nearby North Denmore development would not be enough to cover the full cost of the improvement scheme.
However, last March the council provided extra funding in order to get the project moving.
In advance of the project, interim measures have been put in place such as “large more conspicuous warning signage” and a reduced speed limit of 40mph in the area.
SNP councillor David Cameron put forward the amendment.
He said: “All we are really asking for in our amendment is that we look at the feasibility of bringing this forward, rather than this just continuing onwards.
“It is now 15 or 16 months since the council put the additional money into the capital plan in order to move this forward.
“I realise that money isn’t everything and it’s also time as well, and I absolutely wouldn’t disagree with that at all, but I think we do need to be seen to be moving this forward.”
The amendment lost by five votes to four.
“Allow officers to move this at the pace they can physically meet”
Councillor Marie Boulton, convener of the Capital Programme Committee, said: “Our officers are working at a pace, we’ve got a programme, a planner which has got the report coming back.
“We’ve got other roads projects such as the Berryden Corridor and South College Street that they’re looking at, at the same time.”
She continued: “What I’m trying to do is give people the reassurance that we are on this, but what I don’t want people to do is expect that somehow it’s going to jump other projects which again have been in the pipeline for a long time.
“We’ve got it on the agenda, we’ve got the extra money in the budget, so if there should be additional capacity by some miraculous way in the officer base, they know that it’s a priority for us.
“I’ll be moving just the simple recommendation which is to note the updates and the milestones, and the associated financial implications.
“Not because I don’t want to be cooperative, but to allow officers to move this at the pace they can physically meet without raising expectations.
“We all know there’s a council election next year, and there could be a lot of sabres rattling and saying we could do this better, but for me this is a committee that will hopefully move things along and I have confidence officers will bring back a full report as soon as they can.”