Powerful council lobby group to push for Avon Gorge improvements

West Lothian Council is planning to use its place at the top table of a powerful council lobby group to push for vital improvements to the Avon Gorge road link.
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The route is regarded as vital, not just to Falkirk and West Lothian, but to the Scottish economy as a key link between the M8 and M9 and it is well used by haulage and distribution firms despite its reputation as an accident blackspot. Latest estimates put the bill to improve the Gorge at around £50 million.

It is top of the wish list along with wider road and rail improvements, including the development of Winchburgh’s new railway station.

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An enhanced university presence in West Lothian – which has already fostered greater links with Heriot Watt University – is also in the sights of councillors as they take the chairs in regional development bodies.

Local councillors hope to push the case for works at the Avon Gorge accident blackspot.Local councillors hope to push the case for works at the Avon Gorge accident blackspot.
Local councillors hope to push the case for works at the Avon Gorge accident blackspot.

Councillor leader Lawrence Fitzpatrick and deputy, Kirsteen Sullivan, will assume the chairs of two oversight committees of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal in 2024.

The deal was set up five years ago as a collaboration between councils in Edinburgh, the Lothians and Fife to promote sustainable development and job creation.

It is also a collective voice to call on Holyrood and Westminster for investment in infrastructure and economic development.

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Councillor Sullivan said the Avon Gorge improvement was top of the list to improve regional transport links.

She added: “The Regional Prosperity Framework is to seek commitments from both governments to help us deliver that prosperity. That is commitment to resources and money.

“It’s pretty much a package of initiatives and projects that we think, should there be more funding available, can be delivered. So it is ready to go, rather than ‘here’s some money, come up with ideas.’”

Andy Nichol, the Deal’s programme manager, said: “It has operated very successfully. There are lots of good things to point to. Over 100,000 people have been up-skilled and over 4,500 people have been helped into work.”

“The rotation of the governance and leadership is very important to ensure the City Region Deal is not Edinburgh dominated.”