Caithness and Sutherland proposed local development plan …

1st March 2016

Time is running out to have your say on the Caithness and Sutherland Proposed Local Development Plan (CaSPlan). The publication of the Proposed CaSPlan represents another major step forward in the preparation of a new planning framework for Caithness and Sutherland over the next 20 years and beyond. The plan – published for an 8 week consultation which started on 22 January 2016 – sets out the Council’s view on how and where the Caithness and Sutherland area should grow in the future. Comments on the plan have been coming in steadily, but with only around two weeks left of the consultation the Council is urging anyone who wants to comment but has not already done so, to submit their comments before the deadline of midday on Friday 18 March 2016. David Cowie of the Development Plans Team said, You should let us know if you object to or support a site identified for development or any other part of the Proposed Plan, the reasons why you object/support and if you object then what you would like changed. As we are at a formal stage of the plan making process, any comments received after the deadline may not be considered. All unresolved issues arising from the consultation will be considered at an Examination by a government appointed Reporter who will end up making the final decision. David Cowie explains, Please ensure you submit all relevant information at this stage as you may not be provided with another opportunity to do so before the Plan is finalised and adopted. Anything submitted to us after the deadline of midday on Friday 18 March 2016 may not be accepted by the Scottish Government Reporter.

The easiest way to view the Proposed Plan and make comments is online at You will need to register to submit comments but can then use these login details for future consultations and will be kept informed of future events. It also allows you to save draft comments and stores your submission for your future reference. The Plan may also be viewed at public and mobile libraries and the Council’s Service Points within the Plan area and in Tain, and at planning offices in Wick (Caithness House), Golspie (Drummuie Offices) and Inverness (Council HQ). Anyone who wishes to comment but is unable to access or use the website (for example who cannot access the internet) should contact the Development Plans Team soon on 01349 886608 and they will agree an alternative method for those persons to submit their comments.

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Coastguard shortage, Gaelic spat, Gertrude roundup and more

In The Shetland Times this week.

A political spat erupts between Tavish Scott and the SNP over comments on Gaelic language.

Coastguard staff in Inverness forced to provide cover due to a local crew shortage

We round up all the news from last week s Storm Gertrude.

Arts reviews include comedian Rich Hall, Ten Tonne Dozer s new album and a book by Andrew Beattie.

BT dismiss criticism of their broadband delivery record.

and much more.

Far North Line Loses Passengers Due To Poor Services

29th December 2015

Far North Line Loses Passengers Due To Poor Services

Highland MSP, Rhoda Grant who has spearheaded the campaign for improvements to the Far North Line is highlighting figures from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) that have recorded a year on year fall in passenger numbers using the line since 2012/2013. With the latest figures showing another drop in passenger numbers. Earlier this year Rhoda Grant wrote to the Transport Minister Derek Mackay asking the Minister what the Scottish Government were doing to try and reduce journey times on the Far North Line. She made the plea after it emerged that the trip from Wick to Inverness increased to almost 4 hours 30 minutes one year ago. Speaking this morning (29/12/15) Rhoda Grant said – public confidence has been eroded over the last two years and those with their hands on the levers of power must do everything they can to deliver a better service to the Far North Line, which sees about 400,000 use the line from Inverness. I am disappointed to learn that the passenger numbers on the far North line are at their lowest for several years. If we just look at the year 2012/2013 the total passenger number on the Far North Line from Forsinard and stations north thereof ie Caithness stations, was 73,562 and then in 2014/205 it dropped to a total of 67,304. This information only verifies what constituents and users of the Far North Line have been telling me, that the service is too slow and unreliable. A spokesperson for the campaign group, Friends of the Far North Line, highlighted continuing frustration among rail passengers.

Three months ago he cited, for example, a 10.38am train from Inverness to Wick. By the time it reached Invergordon, it was 12 minutes late because of a train heading south. There was a further 16-minute delay at Lairg while by the time it arrived at Helmsdale – 30 minutes late – it was delayed by a further 40 minutes waiting to access a single track section. Speaking today he said – We really do need to get a grip on this, he said. The number of passengers is going down because the trains are taking longer and the single track line does not have enough passing loops. Passengers at Beauly and Conon Bridge are fed up being stranded when late trains omit to stop, in order to make up time. Some people at Conon Bridge have reverted to going to Dingwall because the trains will stop there even if they are late. This is a lifeline service. It is not just for tourists.

People use it if they have hospital appointments, or they may have a rail connection going south. Rhoda Grant went on to say – I understand that Hitrans are also concerned by the level of service on this route and with 28 projects earmarked for the improvement of the line, only one or two have progressed to date. I will be writing to the Minister to ask him to ascertain what action is being taken by the train operator Abellio to expedite matters with regards improvement of journey times and reliability on the far North line.

The line at Scotscalder,Caithness
Photographer – Bill Fernie