Falkirk Council: More delays to upgrade of Avon Gorge

Further delays to long-awaited plans for an upgrade of the road over the Avon Gorge will be discussed when Falkirk Council’s executive meets next week.

By Kirsty Paterson, Local Democracy Reporter
Tuesday, 14th June 2022, 5:11 pm
Updated Friday, 17th June 2022, 8:21 am

The meeting on Tuesday will be the first time the executive has met since the election on May 5.

Members will hear from officials that a previous decision to apply for cash to finally start the long-awaited work on bridging the Avon Gorge is unable to go ahead just yet. However, a joint bid for funding led by West Lothian Council could see Junction 3 of the M9 being upgraded, which would also benefit the Falkirk area.

The Avon Gorge proposals were first agreed in 2009 and Falkirk Council acquired the necessary land to move forward. But it has not been straightforward to get agreement from partners including West Lothian Council and Transport Scotland.

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There are further delays to the long-awaited Avon Gorge upgrade

Councillors previously expressed impatience that work on the Avon Gorge had not yet started and agreed it should be bid for in the second round of Levelling Up funding – the UK government fund that is taking the place of European funding that is no longer available.

In the first round of funding, the council successfully bid for cash to upgrade the roads between Falkirk town centre and Grangemouth and create the Westfield Crossing to help pedestrians and cyclists safely cross the roads around Falkirk Stadium, Helix Park and Forth Valley College.

However, a report to councillors is now advising that while the second round of the UK Government’s Levelling-Up Fund (LUF) is open for applications, the Avon Gorge project is not yet ready to go ahead.

It is understood that West Lothian Council is pressing ahead first with an upgrade to the M9. Currently the motorway junction only has access to and from the Edinburgh side. The proposed upgraded junction layout would provide full accessibility with on and off slip roads in both directions.

The work could impact on Falkirk Council’s ongoing work to upgrade the Champany Junction, which was allocated funding in February’s budget. The proposed changes will cost more, so – if councillors agree – Falkirk and West Lothian councils will submit a joint application for the improvements to the M9 Junction 3 including the Champany Junction (A904) in the second round of Levelling Up funding.

Councillors have been told that a further report on the Avon Gorge project will be brought to council but that talks are still ongoing between the two councils and Transport Scotland.

More than a decade has passed since planning permission was granted for initial design works undertaken in 2008/09 – however, they no longer meet current structural and roads design codes. The project therefore requires further design work to meet current standards.

The project costs were reviewed in 2020 and were estimated at approximately £52 million – however, rapidly rising costs over the past two years mean that total could now be substantially greater.

The suggestion to councillors is that the A801 Avon Gorge would be submitted as a future UK LUF bid.