World Heritage status may be a bridge too far for a Fife village expected to see an influx of tourists.
The Forth Bridge was granted the same Unesco recognition as the Taj Mahal and the Pyramids, but some residents and business owners in North Queensferry are anxious the anticipated 500,000 visitors a year to the iconic structure will overwhelm the village.
With Network Rail’s planned visitor centre and Fife Council proposals for floating pontoons at the Town Pier, the Help Our North Queensferry (HONQ) group voiced worries about potential harm to the conservation area and extra strain on its already congested narrow roads.
The group, which has more than 100 members, said that while the rest of the country was cheering the bridge’s accolade, celebrations were on hold in the village.
A spokesman, who did not wish to be named, said: “Although HONQ is in favour of the Unesco World Heritage Status of the Forth Rail Bridge, it is the cumulative impact of the follow-on initiatives which concerns us.
“It seems the importance of North Queensferry’s conservation area status has been put to one side.
“The incremental impact from World Heritage status, the granting of planning permission to Network Rail for its visitor attraction at the top of the Forth Rail Bridge and also the Fife Council Town Pier pontoon proposals will profoundly change the village.
“As yet, no one can say whether these changes will be all bad or all good but we do know that the village will be changed.”
Promotion of North Queensferry as a new tourism hub would force a “step change”, he said, and the decision to do so had been without regard to residents.
He said the village, home to the Deep Sea World visitor attraction, already suffers from heavy traffic.
“Its streets were not built for modern traffic,” the spokesman said.
“The road kerbs are broken, street furniture knocked over and drains are compressed into the road surface.”
The group called upon the council to commission a robust traffic management plan in advance of any planning consent being issued.
The council’s manager for economy, tourism and town centres, Sandra Montador-Stewart, said: “Fife Council will undertake a visitor study looking at potential visitor footfall now that the Forth Bridge has World Heritage status.
“This will build on a number of other reports commissioned as part of the bidding process to Unesco.
“Fife Council officials and Network Rail have had early discussions about potential traffic management options for the village of North Queensferry, including out of village park and ride options and attracting as many people as possible to access the village by train.”
Picture by David Wardle