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The Caithness Partnership
Caithness Transport Forum

19 February 07
Transport Questionnaire for Dunnet & Canisbay Residents

Residents of Canisbay and Dunnet are getting a chance to air their views on local public transport in a postal questionnaire sponsored by Caithness Partnership, Highland Council and the Carnegie UK Trust.

In a letter to everyone in the Dunnet and Canisbay area whose name appears in the electoral register community council chairman John Green writes: “During a recent consultation with some of the local residents the Community Council found that the public transport service is not always suitable for the people who live here. We need to find out more about this so that we can pinpoint any changes that might be required.“

During a community consultation exercise carried out on behalf of the community council last year by Irene Hendry and Ellen Simpson it was discovered that although people in the area enjoyed the peaceful and quiet environment and friendly community many had problems accessing services and cited a lack of bus services and availability of transport as being detrimental to their quality of life. The consultation included a survey undertaken with local residents of all ages attending last summer’s Canisbay Show as well as with community groups such as the Wednesday Club, an over 50’s group that meets in the Castle Arms Hotel, Mey every week. They found that problems of remoteness from central services, such as dentists, health clinics and the post office were found to be compounded by a perception that the bus services was inadequate for some people’s needs. Young people in particular were affected by a lack of public transport in the evenings and the weekends and people of all ages felt they would like to see more social events and activities to be held locally.

Mr Green, who is also chair of the Caithness Partnership’s Transport Forum said, “Although to date people have told us that the public transport services does not meet their needs we need clear evidence and details of what the problems really are before we can try and get the service improved. We are keen to hear from people who have tried to access services, such as health clinics or other appointments and who need public transport to get to work but have had difficulties. It is only by understanding exactly what the issues are that anything can be done to try and solve them.”

Caithness Partnership co-ordinator, Anna MacConnell, said, “I’m really pleased that the Dunnet & Canisbay community council is leading community consultation work in their area. The work they are doing is part of a programme that is being sponsored by the Partnership under contract to the Carnegie UK Trust. Caithness Partnership is the only Scottish member of a UK-wide group of community planning partnerships working with the Carnegie UK Trust to bring forward new ways of engaging with communities to try and ensure that local services are tailored to suit local needs. Various pieces of consultation work have been taken forward in different parts of the county by different local groups and new lessons are being learned all the time. The work that Dunnet & Canisbay community council is doing is at the cutting edge of community development and, if successful, this will be replicated not just in other parts of Caithness but further afield.”

As an incentive to people to send back their forms there is a prize of £25 each on offer to the senders of two completed questionnaires drawn at random from all those returned by 25 February. Community council secretary, Irene Hendry, urged local people to take part in the survey, “The more responses we get the more representative of the whole community’s view the report will be and so it’s important that people from all sections of the community put their views forward to us. We have posted about 1,200 questionnaires and will be writing a report on the survey once it is complete and the findings of the survey will be taken forward through the appropriate channels. Although we will be reporting exactly what people have said in their questionnaires we will not be reporting who said it and we would like to reassure respondents that their anonymity will be respected at all times.”
Anna MacConnell 01955606483
John Green 01955611334

19 January 07
Caithness Transport Forum Disappointed With HITRANS Strategy Document As Caithness Issues Ignored

Community leaders in Caithness have expressed their dismay that the county’s transport problems have been virtually disregarded in the recent draft Regional Transport Strategy. 

The draft Transport Strategy for the Highlands & Islands prepared by HITRANS was discussed by the Caithness Transport Forum at a recent meeting and members were angry that Caithness had been overlooked.  Chairman of the Forum, Councillor John Green, said:” Despite earlier submissions made to HITRANS highlighting the transport issues in the far north, many that need to be dealt with urgently, it is very disappointing to see that Caithness has been almost totally ignored in this version of the Regional Transport Strategy.  Even the A99, which the AA lists as one of the most dangerous roads in the UK, barely gets a mention.  So far there is no obvious attempt to look to the county’s future requirements in this document suggesting a lack of input from the north.”

During 2006 Caithness Transport Forum, a sub group of the local community planning partnership, had highlighted transport problems in Caithness such as the notorious Berriedale Braes, the A99, a sub-standard rail link and lack of modern landing aids at Wick Airport in the belief that a good quality transport network is fundamental to economic growth and development.   The principal objectives of the Forum were published in “A Transport Vision for Caithness” which was launched in August 2006 during a visit by Scottish Transport Minister, Tavish Scott.

The Forum has written to HITRANS requesting that the Regional Transport Strategy, which will guide Scottish Executive funding over the next 20 years, be amended to include substantial investment in the far north railway line including a rail link at Dornoch, major improvements to the A9 in Caithness, budgeting for timber transport routes and upgrading of the A99 and A836.  Chairman of the Caithness Partnership, George Bruce, OBE, stated, “The transport network in the far north is a lifeline link not just for people in Caithness, but Orkney as well.   At a time when the public agencies and many in the business community are working hard to bring investment to replace jobs that are disappearing from Dounreay and trying to build a long term future for the area we need to be able to demonstrate that we have the transport links to support that investment.  I would urge people to look at the draft Strategy on the HITRANS website and get their comments in before the closing date on 31 January.  It’s the last chance we will have to influence government spending on transport for some considerable time.”

19 January 07
Caithness Transport Forum -Response To HITRANS Draft

HITRANS web site to see the Consultation document
The closing date for this consultation is 31st January 2007 and anyone can make representations.