Community leaders in Nairn reacted with fury last night as it emerged construction of the town’s long-awaited bypass will be delayed after objections from a series of landowners triggered a public inquiry.
Transport Scotland told the Press and Journal yesterday that the multi-million pound project to dual the A96 – including creating a bypass at Nairn – will now have to be scrutinised by an independent Reporter for the Scottish Government.
It comes after a large number of landowners refused financial deals to sell their property to make way for the new road.
Nairn Councillor Liz MacDonald described the news as a “major setback and hugely disappointing”.
She said the bypass, which was earmarked for completion in 2021, was one of the most-needed developments in the Highlands, as it would free up the increasingly-frustrating congestion in the town.
Miss MacDonald said: “A public inquiry will put this project back some considerable time. The Aberdeen bypass was held up for years.
“Of course landowners have to look out for their own interests, but we had hoped they would agree settlements on the negotiations.
“The whole community of Nairn will be left really upset by this. It will have a major impact on businesses, tourists and commuters.”
Richard Youngson, chairman of Nairn Suburban and West Community Council, was also angry at the outcome.
He said: “We are in desperate need of a bypass, but had always feared it could come to this. Now it has. This is going to stall the development of a much-needed bypass hugely.
“Some of the landowners will be farmers who are not willing to lose their land, but we had hoped this would be sorted without going to a public inquiry.
“But this will most-likely knock the project back by at least a year, if not more.”
A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “We received a number of representations, including objections, to the scheme following publication of draft Orders and have responded to them.
“Effective engagement with affected parties is a key part of the statutory process and we have been negotiating with objectors to try and resolve objections where possible.
“However, we must observe our statutory obligations and currently a number of objections still remain
“We have therefore approached the Scottish Government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division to arrange a Public Local Inquiry. As for all our road schemes, this is the appropriate forum for considering objections received but not withdrawn.
“We are working hard to progress the dualling of the A96 which when completed will help tackle congestion, make journey times more reliable and, crucially, improve road safety.”
He added: “The Scottish Government has given a clear commitment to dual the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen by 2030 which will deliver around 86 miles of upgraded road between Scotland’s two northernmost cities.”