Plans to ‘level up’ Lorne transport

Deliveries to and from Argyll islands are set to benefit from new drone hub

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Plans for transport improvements in the Lorn Economic Growth Zone remain part of a bid for UK Government funding in Argyll and Bute.

Updated plans for a bid to the Levelling Up Fund have been revealed in a report to go before councillors, with all four administrative areas of Argyll and Bute proposed to benefit.

The proposals for the economic growth zone are now part of a collective £50million transport bid entitled ‘Connected Argyll and Bute’.

It has been confirmed that the deadline for bids to the fund is likely to be around Easter, with the council also submitting a £20m regeneration bid for projects in Dunoon and Rothesay.

The report will go before the authority’s policy and resources committee at its virtual meeting on Thursday, February 17.

A report to the full council in September had said: ‘This programme of projects will involve the development of a new transport integrated hub in the town centre; transport capacity improvements within Oban [and] an investment in essential road infrastructure at Dunbeg and between Salen and Tobermory on Mull (interventions will include creation of overtaking lane, additional passing places etc. and will not extend to the creation of two carriageways the length of the route).

‘[It will also include] a hydrogen bus service serving Lorn communities together with an investment in the Oban Airport to help develop a potential Drone Hub with a focus on a first phase that provides essential infrastructure for future investment through the Rural Growth Deal.’

In a progress update, executive director Kirsty Flanagan said: ‘The Dunbeg Corridor part of the bid will be led through the work we are doing on the Dunbeg Corridor using TIF (tax increment financing) funding as a match.

‘We held a meeting on December 1 of the Dunbeg Corridor Consultation Group where the project was well received by the community and a number of key stakeholders including LINK and West Highland Housing Association.

‘The drone hub has secured CRF funds to take to full business case and [we are] in the process of [appointing] Skyports to undertake this work.

‘There are ‘green’ aspects of this element including installation LEDs on the runway at Oban and installation of solar panels on the terminal building.

‘A meeting with West Coast Motors has been held via HITRANS and they are keen to support our bid including revenue costs. We are awaiting a funding decision on bus partnership monies that has jointly been submitted by the council and Hi Trans that will help with development costs.

‘Following a HITRANS workshop with stakeholders including, ABC, CMAL, Calmac, ScotRail, Network Rail, West Coast Motors, Transport Scotland, Oban Airport and Haulage Operators it is proposed to focus on a hydrogen fuelling solution for low carbon buses as a first phase instead of an integrated transport hub.

‘Any vehicles purchased through the funding must be retained in ownership by the council, the vehicle can then be allocated to contract with the operator which will therefore reduce the contract value, ultimately making revenue savings for [the council].’