A safety campaigner fighting for a flyover at the notorious Laurencekirk junction says she’s “hopeful” plans will progress after meeting with the Scottish Government’s transport minister.
Jill Fotheringham, a florist from Laurencekirk, has called for improvements at the junction between the A90 Stonehaven to Dundee road and the A937 Laurencekirk to Montrose road for more than 16 years.
The crossing has been the site of many crashes and near-misses, and last month it emerged that more than half of all speeding offences recorded by average speed cameras on the A90 took place there.
In 2016, the Scottish Government confirmed £24 million plans for a safety improvement project, which at the time had been planned to be in place by 2022.
However, last year it emerged that objections from four parties, including one from Aberdeenshire Council, could push back any upgrades even further.
‘I’m hopeful it can be resolved’
But this week, following a meeting with Transport Minister Graeme Dey, as well as Angus North and Mearns MSP Mairi Gougeon, Ms Fotheringham says she’s confident that three of the four objections will be resolved.
However, she said she doesn’t have the same confidence in the objection raised by Aberdeenshire Council.
The four objections relate to compulsory acquisition of land and access arrangements.
Ms Fotheringham said: “They told me they’re working very closely with the objectors and are ironing out details.
“The impression that I got from the discussion was that yes, they’ll be able to come up with solutions for everything, but the Aberdeenshire Council one is a tricky one.
“But they’re working on ways on how they can bring this forward.
“I’m hopeful that it can be resolved, I do feel that Transport Scotland are true to their word and they are committed, the impression I got from the meeting is they’re as anxious to bring this forward as anyone.”
‘Not so reassured by Aberdeenshire Council’
Ms Fotheringham added: “Graeme Dey told me he travels that road all the time and sees that junction all the time, and he wants it as much as we do, it’s very evident.
“He wants to get this project going, and so I’m very reassured by that, however I’m not so reassured by Aberdeenshire Council.
“I’m worried about the fact they have held it up.
“They’re going to have to take their time to avoid further delays, and sort it all out so that this doesn’t happen again, but that’s what the meetings in Laurencekirk were for, to let everyone see what was going on, and what the plans were going to be so there would be no delays.
“Aberdeenshire Council was part of that. They were involved in that, step-by-step, and yet they wait until the plans are done and the decisions have been made to come in with an objection.
“I find that unhelpful.”
A local public inquiry may be required, but Transport Scotland remains ‘optimistic’
A spokesman for Transport Scotland said that if the concerns of the objectors are not resolved, it could force a public inquiry, which could further delay the long-awaited project.
He said: “We received four objections to proposals during the statutory consultation period for the draft Orders and we continue to negotiate with objectors to try and resolve concerns where possible.
“Should we be unsuccessful in removing all objections a public local inquiry may be required. As with all trunk road projects this is the appropriate forum for considering objections received and not withdrawn.
“Delivery of the scheme itself can only commence if it is approved under the relevant statutory procedures, at which point a timetable for its progress can be set.”
The spokesman explained that there is no hard time limit for resolving the objections.
He continued: “Transport Scotland is continuing to engage with the objectors to the scheme, and we remain optimistic that this constructive dialogue will help to resolve objections where possible.
“No defined period for negotiating with objectors exists, however, we continue to make progress in moving matters forward towards possible resolution of the remaining objections to the scheme.
Aberdeenshire Council’s objection
A spokesman for Aberdeenshire Council said the local authority’s concerns relate to access of homes the Oatyhill area, which lies just south-west of Laurencekirk.
He said: “Aberdeenshire Council is committed to support the project and anticipate that a technical solution can be found to both deliver the long awaiting junction improvement, but also maintain safe access to the dwellings south of Oatyhill.
“Aberdeenshire Council continues to meet regularly with Transport Scotland and their technical team to look at solutions, and is committed to maintaining a high level of partnership working on the project.”