A huge road improvement scheme could weaken flood defences and send water streaming into a Moray town, according to campaigners.
Potential designs for a dual A96 road between Aberdeen and Inverness have attracted criticism from residents who live in the west of Moray.
They have raised concerns that building the 260ft-wide road across flood plains beside the River Findhorn will increase the chances of homes in Forres becoming swamped during bouts of heavy rain.
Dyke Community Council member, Steve Arkley, has helped lead a crusade against some paths Transport Scotland has suggested the dual carriageway could take.
And he claimed two possible routes to the north of Forres had sparked alarm with many in the community.
Last night Transport Scotland declined to address the specific concerns about flooding, but pledged that feedback would be taken on board.
Mr Arkley revealed that he had even pleaded with engineers to scrap plans to dual the A96 around Forres – arguing that congestion is not an issue on the trunk route bypasssing the town.
But the 61-year-old was informed that the suggestion was “not an option”.
Mr Arkley added: “Local landowners, and people who know about the area’s history, have all said flooding is their main concern.
“If Transport Scotland go ahead with either of these northerly routes, then the flood alleviation scheme probably won’t work as planned by directing all the water towards Findhorn Bay.
“Any obstruction of that could lead to a free flow of water and many homes in Forres being flooded.
“I just don’t understand why anyone would create that risk, or why this route is being pursued as a possibility.”
He added: “There has been a growing sentiment that a dual carriageway isn’t needed to ease congestion around Forres the way it might be at Elgin or Nairn, with people asking why it is even happening.
“But that was dismissed outright during a recent meeting I had with Transport Scotland officials, the government wants a dual road all the way between Aberdeen and Inverness.”
Moray Council completed work on the £37million Forres flood alleviation scheme in 2015, and it has already been credited with averting disaster for people in the town.
The local authority confirmed yesterday that the experts who oversaw the scheme are now “studying” the route proposals, ahead of relaying their findings to Transport Scotland.
Project leaders unveiled a shortlist of blueprints for how the dual A96 could pass from Hardmuir to Fochabers last month.
More than 1,800 people attended a series of exhibitions around Moray.
Tensions in the rural area around Dyke rocketed when residents realised that two of a possible four options between Brodie and Forres would cut through the quiet community.
About 120 people packed into a public meeting at Dyke Village Hall on Sunday, June 25, where plans to dissuade transport bosses from following the proposals were forged.
Mr Arkley yesterday said that campaigners are in the midst of completing a 15-page response to the consultation, identifying a slew of perceived flaws with some route options.
Moray MP, Douglas Ross, has taken on their concerns and has contacted Transport Scotland demanding they are given close attention.
He added: “These fears about flooding have been expressed with me by constituents, who have also shared them with Transport Scotland officials.
“I share their concerns about the lack of response and understanding from the people in charge of this contract, and have written to Transport Scotland in the hope that these worries are taken seriously.”
Meanwhile, Moray MSP Richard Lochhead has invited project managers to Dyke to meet residents.
A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “We are keen to hear the views of locals and road users on the options being considered.
“The vital feedback we receive will help inform the further design work, all aspects of each route option will be considered.”
The closing date for comments to be submitted is Friday, August 4.