New woodland planned to prevent landslips on A-road held up by "complex land purchase"

A stretch of a main road in Scotland which is among the most prone in the country to landslides is to finally benefit from an extensive tree planting programme on the surrounding slopes.

The Rest and Be Thankful pass, showing the A83 and Old Military Road - image: Ben Allen (CC BY ND 2.0)
The Rest and Be Thankful pass, showing the A83 and Old Military Road - image: Ben Allen (CC BY ND 2.0)

A six-year-old plan to plant up 200 hectares of new woodland on slopes above the Rest and Be Thankful, the highest point on the main arterial road of southern Argyll, the A83, is being pursued after its most recent closure due to landslips.

But according to a statement from Transport Scotland: "The plan to plant trees above the A83 Rest and Be Thankful to help mitigate landslips cannot begin until the complex land purchase process is complete and the necessary planning permission is in place.

"Transport Scotland has been working closely with the existing landowner and partner agencies and it is hoped these will be finalised in the near future, allowing preparatory works to begin in the new year."

A Forestry Commission Scotland representative told Horticulture Week: "Transport Scotland are taking the lead on this, and we are waiting to get the go-ahead on planting from them."

Afforestation was first proposed in a 2012 report for Transport Scotland, which cited the three main benefits as canopy interception of rainfall and subsequent evaporation; increased root water uptake of the water that does infiltrate into the soil and subsequent transportation via the leaf cover; and root reinforcement.

But it noted: "Establishment of the vegetation up to the 450m contour such that a significant contribution to stability is made is likely to take at least 15 years with 30 years being more likely where climatic conditions are most severe."

Work has already begun on a further £2m worth of additional mitigation measures on the stretch of road, including the construction of roadside catch pits.

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