A row has broken out after it emerged plans to dual one of the north-east’s busiest roads could stunt the growth of one of its biggest towns.
The long-awaited project to dual the A96 Aberdeen to Inverness road have been broadly welcomed by motorists, although a final decision on which route it will take is yet to be made.
But it has now emerged that two major planning proposals for near Inverurie – which have been on the table for nearly a decade – have been put on hold due to the “uncertainty” of the project.
It comes after councillors were asked to approve a draft of Aberdeenshire Council’s response to the issues raised in the 2016 local development plan (LDP).
The local authority will not recommend a long term growth strategy for Inverurie under the current LDP but will wait until the next one is being drafted to provide further housing land supply.
Planning officers blamed the “uncertainty” around the dualling of the A96 for the decision – arguing that by the time of the next plan, Transport Scotland will have decided if the route should go east, west, or through the town.
But the stance infuriated local councillors, who said more homes in Inverurie are needed now.
And when Provost Hamish Vernal, who represents Inverurie, argued the blueprint should include the Souterford and Lofthillock proposals, he was furious to discover they could not be added in – despite local feelings.
He said the land had been set aside, waiting for inclusion in the LDP, since 2006 – and that this decision meant it could now be the 2020s before the much-needed housing is delivered in the fast-growing town.
Mr Vernal said: “In 2006 these sites, Souterford and Lofthillock, were being punted by the council as appropriate for developments, and since that time almost 10 years have passed and they have gone from sites that were suitable for development to sites that are unsuitable for our plan.
“Lofthillock is a prime town centre site, ready for development. How it can be said there is an adequate supply for housing development in Inverurie is beyond me.”
The council’s own strategic development plan requires 1,500 houses to be allocated in the Inverurie to Blackburn area in the 2016 LDP – but only 1,222 is being allocated.
The blueprint was agreed by a meeting of the full council in March, and members of the Garioch are committee were warned this week that any changes at this stage could delay the delivery of the overall 2016 plan.
However, Mr Vernal pushed forward with a motion to rethink the proposals to include both the Souterford and Lofthillock sites, which was narrowly defeated five votes to four.
Senior policy planner for the council David Berry said there was “growing uncertainty about housing development for Inverurie” due to the A96 project.
He added: “Transport Scotland are looking to dual all the way to Inverness. The A96 may take a road to east of Inverurie or to the west. That final preferred road is not known. We felt we weren’t able to comfortably allocate sites.”
Mr Berry said there was still “significant allocations within the town”.
But Councillor Bryan Stuart argued the Garioch area committee wanted to make changes, and said: “We are quite at liberty to do that. We’re duty bound as representatives. We shouldn’t be in any way intimidated. We are just trying to do our jobs.
“We are here to represent local people and the local community.”
A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “The Scottish Government has given a clear commitment to dual the A96 which will see delivery of around 86 miles of upgraded road between Inverness and Aberdeen by 2030.”