Scotland’s transport secretary has argued that dualling a major north-east road along its existing route would mean people would lose their homes.
Transport Scotland has faced repeated calls to justify why dualling the existing A96 Aberdeen to Inverness road at Inverurie has not been included in proposals to widen the route.
There are a number of options on the table for dualling the road between the Granite City and Huntly, but using the current stretch is not among them.
Campaigners have claimed the option has been “rejected prematurely” on “flawed and incomplete” information.
But when questioned about the decision in Holyrood yesterday, Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said the route had been ruled out because of it would mean throwing people out of their homes.
North East MSP Peter Chapman said there was “a very strong feeling” in the Inverurie area that upgrading the existing road was the best option.
Mr Matheson said: “(It) is because of the impact it would actually have on existing residential premises which would be affected by a loss of their garden areas and also in some cases their properties altogether.
“That’s why it was one of the routes which was ruled out. What I can assure the member of is that as government we are committed to improving the infrastructure in the north-east of Scotland.”
But A96 Action – which was formed to campaign for alternative routes, which would also potentially threaten homes, countryside and wildlife to be binned – argue their preferred option has been cast aside without good reason and also “expressed disappointment” that Transport Secretary Michael Matheson has not yet met with them.
Lorna Anderson, chairwoman of the group, said: “We believe that this option has been rejected prematurely on flawed and incomplete information, and that the economic case has simply not been made.
“We have carried out a critical evaluation of the evidence put forward in Transport Scotland’s feasibility and appraisal report for ruling out online dualling options, and consider it imbalanced, omitting a considerable number of positive benefits, while overfocusing on and overstating potential negatives.
“We therefore believe the report, on which the rejection of the online dualling option is founded, to be deeply flawed.”
Last night, Transport Scotland said the project team behind the proposals had offered to meet with the group next week.
Meanwhile, north-east MSP Lewis Macdonald has stressed that there must be widespread support for whatever route is chosen, with so much being invested from the public purse.
He said: “Only last week Transport Secretary Michael Matheson told parliament that the A96 dualling project would cost £3 billion – four times the projected cost to the taxpayer of the AWPR which had overwhelming public support in the north-east.
“If £3 billion of public money is to be spent on an infrastructure project like the A96 dualling, then it must have the support of the local communities.
“The Scottish Government must look again at the options they are presenting to local people in Inverurie, and ministers must listen to local people.”