A north community was celebrating last night as a power giant succumbed to pressure to change the timing of a controversial planned six-week closure of part of the North Coast 500.
Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) has agreed to submit an application to the council to close part of the Bealach na Ba road overnight from June 11, instead of during daytime hours from April 15 as previously proposed.
It comes after about 70 people turned out on Thursday to a village hall in Applecross to voice concerns about the proposed road closure times.
The road has to be shut to enable fibre optic cabling to be laid to Ministry of Defence base at Sand.
The new closure times would be from 6pm until 7.30am Monday to Friday to make use of longer daylight hours – not the 9am to 6pm as suggested before.
Jon Glover, proprietor of the Walled Garden resraurant, and Applecross Community Council chairman, said: “I am absolutely delighted. It’s testament to SSE, they listened and reacted very quickly and have taken on board the strength of feeling in the community.
“It says something about a small community – if you stand together and work together you can get the results.
“We have always accepted that work needed done. It was a question of minimising disruption. It should never have gone down to the wire like this, though.”
Applecross Inn owner Judith Fish said: “I think it’s very acceptable. It’s a shame they had to go to such lengths to come to an agreement, but it’s very workable. This is the sensible outcome.”
Business owners said previously they felt the authorities had not listened properly to the community from the outset when the closure – originally affecting Easter weekend – was raised in mid January.
They also expressed fears that closing the route in April and May would be “catastrophic” for trade, with Mrs Fish estimating it could rob the community of £400,000.
And they said bed and breakfasts and a local hostel had already suffered cancellations for April due to the road closure threat.
SSE insisted they have held several meetings with members of the community.
Last night the local MP Ian Blackford, who organised the community meeting, said he was “delighted” with SSE’s response, adding: “I thank SSE for listening to the legitimate concerns of residents in Applecross on the negative impact to the local community, businesses and tourist traffic from the proposed closure of this main access route between April and May.”
He added that he will make sure the new timings fit in with normal access for locals to and from Applecross, for example pupil transport to and from Plockton High School.