What next?

Crieff's Community Trust and Community Council will be preparing a review of the Crieff Community Action Plan 2013-2018, to see what has been achieved over the last five years and to take stock. A new plan will be devised and we should expect to see the issues of traffic and the will to lobby for a relief road still on the list of priorities. In the last plan Priority 1.3 was improvements to parking in the town, Priority 1.4 was improvements to pedestrian and cycle access in and around the town and Priority 1.5 was: Develop proposals for reducing heavy traffic in the town centre, including 1.5b: Lobby PKC/Transport Scotland for a bypass/relief road.

The Air Quality Action Plan community consultation is underway and PKC are looking for ideas for short term improvements and there is a questionnaire available, which you should download from the PKC website, to make sure your views are taken into account. They are looking for all kinds of responses and claim to be ruling nothing out but it may be assumed that they are going to focus on a strategy which can be implemented immediately with the expectation of early and sustainable results. They may agree that a relief road is going to be the best option but it will obviously take years to establish.

People tend not to readily accept growth of their town, especially if it means the construction of hundreds of cheaply built homes which bear no relevance to the established vernacular other than to feign traditional detailing, often very badly - so badly it makes one one long for a return to plain and unfussy construction. The house builders will argue that the market indicates a preference for these token characteristics but they may also be lip service to current planning guidelines. If we care about how Crieff grows over the next generation - and grow it will - then we need to try to take control of how these fundamental decisions about land zoning are made and how they fit with our town's needs and preferences. Development must be profitable but considering the design of houses and their environs carefully does not preclude making a profit. Those who sell prime agricultural land to facilitate a project like this must be properly rewarded, at better than current land values perhaps but we should consider arranging with PKC to make zoning conditional on valuations, to avoid the land being sold off to the highest bidder. This kind of thinking needs to be given a forum.

We should not be talking solely about a relief road but how a relief road fits and helps a whole plan for the town. It would be expected that the road costs and other infrastructure improvements will be considerable and this could become the focus of any discussions which take place with Transport Scotland and PKC. However, we need to keep an eye on "what's best". There is often a sense of the inevitability of compromise which undermines people's resolve to make the best outcome for those who inhabit the result. We can see plenty to criticise in the way other towns and villages have developed, so we should try to learn from these and we should try to work towards modelling a better way of doing things.

In the old Community Action Plan there is a call for a Sports Hub which has taken a significant step forward with the proposed development of Crieff International Highland Centre, though the site pressures are quite significant. The relief road development could not only release land where this could be developed, in concert with the Strathearn Campus interests, maybe sharing resources, but also perhaps fitting a greater recreational plan which allows the people of Crieff to regain a connection with the river. How poetic would that be, when we consider Crieff's origins and the ancient Broich settlement.

We need to plan the whole of Crieff while being open to the ability of parts generating their own subculture and evolving in ways which are not predicted. However, piecemeal development which has no cohesion or thought for the whole should be discouraged.

Whereas the Strathearn Campus is a tremendous success story for Crieff, its isolation from the heart of the town is a problem and when we plan how Crieff grows we should look for ways to keep stitching back to the original fabric, often in the small details, to ameliorate this problem. The low speed local distributor road suggested in the discussion plan may ring alarm bells for some people as they will envisage increased volumes of traffic and traffic perhaps moving more quickly because the route is adapted to a different standard which might allow greater speeds. There be little change to the affected roads, other than how junctions are prioritised. Natural obstacles to speed should remain and, indeed, there can be greater pedestrian priority and imaginative use of shared surfaces in places to make sure the road is not used as a short cut but is a clearly defined, strong link between the top and the bottom of the town, along which key non-domestic developments could occur.

Finally

If you are a landowner or farmer and are outraged by the presumptions made with these seemingly arbitrary lines drawn through fields, please don't be. This is purely intended as a discussion document and has no official basis and does not reflect anyones thinking but the writer's. It merely asks questions, the most important of which is "Are things happening or about to happen in Crieff which will stop us from being able to make an effective relief road?"

If there is popular local support for such a plan and if Transport Scotland were willing to talk about it, then they, the community and PKC would get into the particulars of where the road might go and who and how people would benefit from the resultant re-zoning. Let us hope that if further development of the town is facilitated by such a plan, it does not simply release a large block of land to a volume house builder. We can weave an interesting and attractive solution if profit and density are regulated by a sense of good design and the common good.

The Crieff Community should engage with Architecture & Design Scotland, The Scottish Futures Trust and with the Scottish Civic Trust in growing an holistic and popular plan.