Frustration mounts over “dangerous” causeway

Clearly dangerous and impassable... the flooded Baleshare causeway at high tide.Clearly dangerous and impassable... the flooded Baleshare causeway at high tide.
Clearly dangerous and impassable... the flooded Baleshare causeway at high tide.
Renewed concerns have been expressed about Baleshare’s future viability without improvements to the 60 year-old causeway that links it to North Uist.

In the wake of recent storms, the community has called for urgent intervention by the Scottish Government as the 350 metre causeway is “no longer fit for purpose due to floods and hidden debris”.

Baleshare has a population of around 60. A resident involved in the group raising the profile of the issue, Ann Maclean, told the Gazette: “It has been a source of concern for a number of years but the recent bad weather has brought it to the fore again.

“It is really dangerous. When you drive across it, you don’t know what you’re hitting. You can’t see what is road and what is water. When we are cut off, kids can’t get to school and adults can’t get to work.

“I am a nurse. There are also carers and cooks from the care home. When the weather is bad, we leave early to get to work but there is always uncertainty”.

She said that the Comhairle, the MSP and MP have been made well aware of the situation. “Everybody is writing to everyone else but nobody has any money”.

They had pinned hopes on inclusion in Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s bid under the Levelling Up programme but this has not been successful in the first three rounds.

The Baleshare causeway was built in 1962. According to the action group, it was “built quickly and without much planning. At the time of construction, a culvert arrived on site but was never actually installed. To this day, there is clear evidence that water is just not getting through quickly enough”

.Their statement continues: “We believe that Baleshare causeway is the only one in Uist not to have been upgraded. In around 2000, some rocks were placed down one side but many of these have now slipped, leaving large parts of the causeway exposed. The big storm of 2005 had a significant impact on the structure of the causeway, but no repairs have been carried out.

“Island residents can often be cut off during bad weather. Essential carers can't get to clients who are very much in need of their services. Kids can't get to school. Police, ambulance and fire services can't get down. Anyone with a job to go to cannot get to work. Crofters can't get down to feed livestock..

“There is urgent need for intervention from the Scottish Government … The council do not have the budget to replace or upgrade this decaying structure. The causeway needs urgent works, possibly a full replacement, to ensure the community of Baleshare can be sustainable into the future.”

A spokesman for the Comhairle said: “There are a number of areas across the Western Isles where weather conditions and tides can cause disruption to roads infrastructure. There is a flood warning system, managed by SEPA, which allows communities, first responders and service providers to prepare for such events.

“There are many competing priorities in terms of investment in the transportation network. This will include dealing with potential impacts of Climate Change, maintaining current infrastructure, and improving interconnectivity. Baleshare Causeway will be included in this list of priorities. At this time, there is no indication of possible funding”.