Introduction

Crieff sits at an important crossing, where the A85 trunk road, from Perth to Oban and the west, meets the A822, which brings traffic from the south (A9) and north (Tourist Route). These are important arteries in the daily distribution needs in this part of Scotland. Also, as more people are moving into the Perthshire countryside, the amount of commuting traffic these routes need to handle is growing. There is also a correlation between the prosperity of a community and its accessibility.

Crieff’s commercial High Street is dwindling and it is generally acknowledged that, in common with other settlements in the UK suffering the same disuse and neglect, it needs to be revitalised. Crieff needs to allow for some population growth and it needs to enhance its important tourism assets and make the tourism market less seasonally weighted. It also needs to encourage the development of sustainable business. Business needs homes, footfall, accessibility and infrastructure. However, boosting the numbers resident in Crieff is not a solution to its High Street problems and the load on its infrastructure should not be underestimated.

A notable impediment to the revival of Crieff’s centre is the volume of traffic which navigates the High Street (part of the A85 trunk road) and the lack of ready parking in the vicinity of the High Street. The existing levels of congestion are causing serious problems of air pollution, attributed to the volume of traffic and the amount of time running vehicles are forced to stay stationary at particular locations along the High Street.

A solution to the serious problem of congestion and pollution of the High Street corridor would be to direct through-traffic by another route, along a bypass or relief road. No longer can it be argued that moving through-traffic away from the High Street will be catastrophic for High Street businesses by removing passing trade; that model has long gone. However, local topography means the opportunities for a route for a bypass, without the considerable expense of two new river crossings, are severely limited. In fact it could be said that there is only one option for an intermediate solution.

It is difficult to reliably predict how population growth will affect Crieff but it is fair to assume that growth in formerly more remote parts of the rural centre of Scotland, north of the A9 will only increase the problem of traffic trying to get through Crieff, at all times of the year and, most especially, during holiday high season.

The congestion problem and the lack of parking opportunities is severe and something needs to be done urgently to ameliorate the difficulty, even if a long term (30 year) plan should also be on the table. This combined problem of parking and traffic form Priority 3 and 5 in the Town Centre section of the Crieff Community Action Plan 2013-2018 but, seven years later, only the pollution question is being addressed, without a proper discussion about the bigger picture.

The main reason for the urgency is to ensure that ad hoc developments around the town do not seal off the only feasible narrow corridor for an interim relief road. There are developments proposed on the Broich Road which seem not to consider the main problem and the question must be asked: “Has this problem been identified and has the solution not become evident?”

Any kind of road planning on this scale is going to be controversial and it will affect everyone in one way or another and it will arouse passions but that should not be a reason to avoid talking about it. The word "bypass" can evoke images of big high speed roads, sweeping traffic away from the town, at great cost. The term "relief road" better suits a low speed diversion of the existing traffic flow into an existing system which is better able to handle the predicted volumes of traffic with the least amount of disruption.