Traffic Management in Glen Muick
I am pleased to provide NEMT members with an update on UDAT's proposals to begin implementing traffic management measures in Glen Muick, following a lengthy process of involvement and detailed study. As many of you will recall, last winter we undertook a wide ranging consultation exercise culminating in an open workshop held in Ballater in February, to review the findings and debate various options we had been developing on how this might be translated into a workable and reasonable solution. (See Donald Thomas' useful review in Mountain Views, issue No 45).
We followed this up by circulating a summary of the workshop findings to everyone who attended, including NEMT, and set about acting on the balance of all the research and advice received - not an easy task! On the main issues; car parking, access for coaches, charging and facilities at the Spittal, there was a fairly clear consensus on the general principles of what should be done, although a lot of detail still needed working on. On other issues, particularly landscaping, there was a much wider range of views on what should be done, and this is dealt with later.
So what has happened since then? Firstly, we looked very carefully at the practical and administrative implications of how the agreed measures might be introduced, and the success of similar management solutions adopted elsewhere in mountain areas in the UK. We then reviewed our original design ideas for the Spittal car park with the landscape architect, partner organisations and others to integrate the revised proposals into a sensitive and effective plan. This process led us through many design changes, and in June we put forward a package of detailed recommendations to our UDAT Board, and announced at our AGM and in the press our intention to go ahead with an integrated plan of improvements to be put in place over the coming winter (see illustrated plan). The scheme includes the following elements:
- Car parking. The existing car park is to be moderately enlarged within the existing landform to make better use of existing space, and the screened area opposite the entrance extended to accommodate more cars. Overall this will increase the number of car spaces from 60 to 82. Verge parking within a 150 metre approach of the Spittal will be prohibited, in order to ease traffic flows coming in and out of the car park, but informal parking beyond this will remain, to act as an over-spill during peak periods.
- Coach Access and parking. Coach access will continue, with three dedicated coach spaces provided within a new separate coach parking and turning area away from the car park screened by an existing larch wood. A permit /booking scheme was seriously considered but rejected because of the difficulties of administering and control. The new arrangement will be explained to coach operators and signed at the foot of the Glen. When full, all other coaches will have to return back down the Glen.
- Charging. A flat rate daily charge of £2 per car and £10 per coach will be introduced at Easter 2001, along with a £10 (12 month) season ticket for regular users. Two ticket machines will be installed and a car park attendant employed to assist and ensure payment. UDAT will lease the car park from Balmoral Estate, and all the proceeds will be ploughed back into path repairs and the future maintenance of the car park.
- Wider landscaping. As described earlier, views on how or what should be done to enhance the wider landscape at the Spittal were much more complex and divided. Sensitive landscaping is integral to the scheme, and UDAT is committed to providing a solution for the long-term management of the Glen which carries broad support. For these reasons, we propose relooking at a wider range of options with users and other interests over the coming year, to try to bring together an acceptable solution. Subject to funding and other statutory requirements, this will then be undertaken as a second phase of development.
- Provision of other facilities. No further facilities will be provided at the Spittal. For the time being, the existing toilet block will stay on the same site. The main emphasis will be on providing alternative facilities for casual visitors elsewhere in the area, particularly attractive low level walks, and providing better information at the new Information Centre in Ballater, as well as informing coach operators. We are now at an advanced stage in completing a new 90 km network of paths and cycle routes around Ballater, and promoting them through map boards, leaflets and sign-posting in Ballater.
The plans as shown were formally submitted for planning approval to Aberdeenshire Council in August and advertised in the press, and will be considered by the Marr Area Committee at the end of October. If approved, the reconstruction work will start in November and continue through December. Alternative parking will be provided whilst the work is in progress, however there may be some temporary inconvenience to users during this time.
I hope this provides some insight into the overall process and final outcome. It obviously isn't possible to explain all of the reasoning and practical constraints we had to work with in this article, however if any NEMT member would like further information please feel free to contact me at the UDAT office on 013398 81133. Finally, may I thank NEMT members for all their valuable input and ideas in helping us develop these proposals, which I hope will provide a more balanced, effective and sustainable solution for the future of the Glen.
Andrew Coleman, UDAT Project Manager, 2nd October 2000
Update (April 2001)
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