the UK Government has performed a U-dramatic turn and scrapped plans to close Girvan’s driving test centre.
Carrick MP Sandra Osborne arranged for a debate at Westminster last Tuesday night to discuss ways to re-introduce driving tests in Girvan and Cumnock.
And to the Labour members surprise, during the debate Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Mike Penning, said that the Coalition would scrap the Driving Standards Agency’s (DSA) plans to close the centre, which has been operating for 60 years in the town.
Last year the Carrick Gazette revealed how under the plans people sitting driving tests in South Ayrshire would have to travel to the nearest centre in Ayr to sit the tests on unfamiliar roads.
Local driving instructors warned that the cost of doing this would be detrimental to local people.
Girvan community council chairman Alec Clark this week welcomed the news saying it was a victory for “common sense”.
Mr Clark said: “This is absolutely fantastic news and underpins the work and the commitment of the community council with the support of Sandra Osborne and the work done by driving instructors in the area. It is a victory for common sense and social inclusion.
“It means people do not need to expend time and money travelling to distant testing centres when they can have the tests in the town where they belong and where they have been for the past 60 years. It’s a job well done and great news for the community.”
In a statement to the Commons, Mrs Osborne argued about how the area was falling into decline and was in desperate need of regeneration.
She said: “Both town centres have been decimated and are in need of urgent regeneration, and in the case of Girvan even the local swimming pool has closed.
“It would be difficult to overstate the strength of local feeling in these communities at what they see as continual neglect and particularly a lack of understanding and empathy about what it is like living in a rural area and the difficulties of accessing services.”
Mrs Osborne criticised the way in which the DSA carried out the closure of the Girvan Driving test centre: “There was a consultation process of some four weeks basically over the Christmas holiday period, which was totally inadequate and frankly reprehensible.
“There was never any intention in my view to really acknowledge - far less listen to - local opinion.
“The DSA is obviously unaware of the logistics around Cumnock and Girvan and has taken the decision to close the facility purely on a theoretical basis of mileage. Many rural villagers already need to travel some distance to get to Cumnock or Girvan in the first place.
Mike Penning said: “The Honourable Lady asked me for an assurance that we will bring testing to her community.
“Yes, we will, and we will do it as soon as we can. We need to deliver this much-needed service in the community so that people can have the skills that they need.
“In a rural community, passing the driving test is one of the great freedoms that we can give to young people. We need the skills to do that, and we need to bring that service to them at no extra cost to them. That is crucial. I have an open mind on who should deliver these.
“We will deliver driving tests in the community, where they should be, rather than a huge distance away, which was the previous Government’s policy.
“I have inherited that policy, but I will not continue with it.”
Councillor John McDowall said: “The minister gave an assurance that people would be able to sit the test in Girvan under a new arrangement that would see test examiners travelling to Girvan on a regular basis to undertake examinations.
“Although the details of this are still to be worked out, it is a welcome step forward from the previous position. I look forward to this new arrangement being implemented as soon as possible.”