Councillors agree to lobby for much needed Bellfield Interchange improvements
Concerned East Ayrshire councillors came together at Cabinet this week to call for urgent action by Transport Scotland and the Scottish and UK Governments to prioritise and find alternative sources of funding for vital improvements to infrastructure at Kilmarnock’s Bellfield Interchange.
Investment for this busy junction is vital in terms of maintaining key transport links and the impact these have on the wider Ayrshire economy. In recent years there has been an increase in the level of congestion, greater queues and sadly more accidents around the interchange.
The interchange provides essential transport links to all parts of Ayrshire and south west Scotland and forms part of the strategic road network. Responsibility for the junction lies with Transport Scotland, but despite the fact that they both own and have responsibility for Bellfield Interchange, they have not prioritised the site in their Strategic Transport Projects Review 2 - which sets out infrastructure commitments to 2042.
Due to this lack of commitment, East Ayrshire Council bid to the UK Government for Levelling Up Funds for the proposed £9.5m project but this was rejected.
Councillor Douglas Reid, Leader of East Ayrshire Council has expressed his anger and disappointment.
“We are not prepared to accept that there are no further funding opportunities available to us and we will do our upmost to engage with Scottish and UK Governments and Transport Scotland to lobby for improvements, given the given the significance of these transport corridors across Ayrshire and our increasing concerns in relation to the number of accidents and congestion at this junction.
“Whilst this fund gave us some hope that we might be able to upgrade the Bellfield Interchange, the real responsibility for this lies with Transport Scotland and I am writing to both the Scottish and UK Governments and Transport Scotland to push for progress as a matter of priority.
“Upgrading the Bellfield Interchange is important for so many reasons - it plays a major role in Scotland’s Strategic traffic network and was identified as a key site for improvement under our Local Development Plan 2 (LDP2). It’s vital to our local economy and that of the wider Ayrshire area, and indeed Scotland as a whole, that we have good transport links to keep our industrial and business infrastructure moving forward.
“There is an ongoing programme of major investment in projects across Ayrshire and south west Scotland which depend on a smooth traffic flow through Bellfield. If we are to achieve the economic growth set out in our LDP2 and meet our active travel and carbon reduction targets in accordance with our Climate Change plans, it’s vital that we push ahead with this much needed work.
“On a more local level, upgrading this junction would ease the daily congestion and improve traffic flow and safety for pedestrians, cyclists and all vehicle users. The plans, which include a segregated east-west active travel link, would help with cutting pollution from idling queueing traffic, providing safer, faster, more reliable links for domestic, business and commercial traffic and improve quality of life for those in the surrounding area.
“As responsibility for the Bellfield Interchange lies with Transport Scotland, we will approach them for assistance. They were party to our latest LDP modelling process and were also involved in previous discussions relating to the upgrade of the junction.
“Transport Scotland has indicated for a number of years that they expect the Council to fund upgrades to the interchange and we’ll continue to pursue all avenues possible, calling on our parliamentarians, the Scottish Government and other authorities to push this project through for the economic and environmental benefit of all our communities, businesses and visitors. It’s an absolute priority for us to get this on the political agenda.”
Cabinet agreed to work cross party to raise the issues and work on a strategy and campaign to lobby for an urgent review of the situation.