North Coast 500 Easter road closure postponed after tourism fears
Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) has delayed work to lay fibre optic cable for two weeks from 26 March to 9 April.
This is to avoid the Easter week, which traditionally launches the tourist season.
The mountain pass, which rises to more than 2,000ft, is part of the North Coast 500 route with the six-week closure forcing a 30-mile detour.
The single track road is the third highest in Scotland after the A93 and A939 through the Glenshee and Lecht snowsports centres.
It will be shut on weekdays from 9am to 4pm and 5:30pm to 11pm to minimise disruption to commuters.
However, emergency vehicles will be given access, along with locals being driven to hospital in an emergency.
There may also be delays of up to 15 minutes at weekends.
SSE and contractors KN Group have offered the local community Â£20,000 for local projects as a goodwill gesture for the disruption.
A spokesperson said: "SSE Enterprise Telecoms has held meetings with the local community in the Applecross and Shieldaig area to establish how best to minimise disruption for the planned cabling install works over the Am Bealach.
"This also includes working closely with The Highland Council and also with the North Coast 500 so they can advertise any potential road closures."
"The road will be open at the weekend but we will still be working on sections and this will be controlled by the use of stop and go traffic management and there will be minimal delays on site up to 15 mins maximum."
Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh councillor Kate Stephen said: "Driving over the Bealach is one of the features of the NC500 and it is the most direct route in and out of Applecross for most people.
"It is a long diversion round the coast road.
"The council can’t stop the road being closed so it is a matter of trying to manage the closure times to minimise the impact on road users.
"However, the disruption will be inconvenient and costly for local people and businesses.
"It is in recognition of this that SSE are considering a donation to the local community who can then decide what worthwhile projects it should go to.
"I very much welcome this gesture and hope the community council will be re-established in March and will manage the distribution of the funds."
The Federation of Small Businesses praised the postponement.
Highlands and Islands development manager David Richardson said: "I’m delighted. We are 100 per cent behind the roll out of fibre optic broadband and 100 per cent behind roads that are fit for purpose, but I’m also delighted common sense has prevailed because tourism is vital in that area."
A Highland Council spokesperson said: "SSE are requesting the road be closed so they can lay fibre optic cables along the route.
"Originally they wanted this work to start at the end of March, just at the start of the Easter holidays, but following intervention by local councillors due to complaints from the community, they have agreed to push back this work until mid-April.
"Once SSE apply for and supply the council with full details, a traffic order will be published."