Plans for a controversial link road in Elgin are back on track.
Moray councillors yesterday voted to submit a new plan for the town’s Western Link Road (WLR) which has split opinion throughout the region for more than ten years.
The proposed route has been designed to link Edgar Road and Wittet Drive, with the construction of a new road bridge over the Aberdeen-Inverness railway line.
Following a heated debate at yesterday’s full council meeting, members voted 14 to nine in favour of working towards the submission of an amended application as soon as possible.
The successful motion came from councillor John Cowe, chairman of the economic development and infrastructure services committee, seconded by councillor Eric McGillivray.
The unsuccessful amendment, which would have seen a decision on the western link road delayed pending clarification from the Scottish Government about its proposals to dual the A96, was moved by councillor Gordon McDonald and seconded by councillor Pearl Paul.
Councillor Douglas Ross, who was chairman of the planning and regulatory services committee that rejected the last link road application, also proposed a motion which would have seen the planning committee’s refusal last month as being the final decision, but failed to receive a seconder.
Speaking last night, campaigners said they were not surprised that their fight against the road has started all over again.
Mr Cowe said doing nothing was not an option, and the proposed route was never going to please everyone, least of all those who were likely to be most affected by it.
“We fully understand and sympathise with that,” he said.
“Nevertheless we as a council have at times to make very difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions which affect the few but ultimately benefit the many. This is just such a case.
“The western link road is the most cost-effective solution to increased traffic volumes and to the development of Elgin-south-west.”
Mr McDonald said: “The people of Wittet Drive must be fed up to the teeth of it. I move that we defer any decision until we have a timeline for the duelling of the A96. We are talking about 18 months. It would be crazy to make a decision without taking into account that at all.”
Mr Ross said the “blinkered view” of officers and councillors who support the project was “astonishing”.
He said: “It was clear today that the chief executive, senior officers and the Independent and Labour groups on the council are adamant this road must go ahead and are willing to ignore the views of the vast majority in Moray who see this road as a waste of money and unnecessary.
“It seems we have an administration and a council who want you to respect their decisions, but if a committee disagrees with them, as the planning committee did after a two day hearing on the Western Link Road, then the decision can be torn up and resurrected in under two weeks.
“That does nothing to enhance the reputation of the council and the completely blinkered view some officers and councillors have taken on the need and design of the Western Link Road is astonishing.”
Link road campaigner, Douglas Williamson, of Sheriffmill Road, said: “The vote didn’t come as a surprise. There are so many councillors who have been blind or brain-washed into the right direction for the council.
“When councillors are elected by the people, they are meant to be representatives. They should be listening to what people say. We will keep fighting this. It’s not a done deal, but it certainly looks like one.”