Transport chiefs have been urged to extend a consultation over a major north-east road improvement project over fears some residents could be left out.
In December, Transport Scotland announced its preferred route for the dualling of the A96 between Huntly and Aberdeen.
A consultation into the proposed route is due to end on February 15, six weeks after the route was announced.
But local residents and an MSP have called for the deadline for views to be extended, with one community council calling the timeframe “unacceptable”.
Regional Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has written to Transport Scotland – the Scottish Government’s transport agency – over the concerns.
He said: “Residents are very concerned that the current consultation period simply doesn’t provide enough time to submit detailed comments.
“Given the huge impact the proposed new stretches of road will have on their lives, it is only right that they have adequate time to respond to the consultation in full.
“This is why I have written to Transport Scotland to ask that they extend the consultation period. I hope that they will agree to do so.”
Bennachie Community Council wants the consultation period extended until at least the end of March, having previously criticised the timing of the preferred route announcement – which came just days before Christmas.
Chairwoman Sarah Robinson said: “The consultation period is far too short for a consultation of this magnitude.
“In addition, consideration should be given to the fact that, due to current restrictions and the challenges of rural broadband, important community groups such as community councils are unable to meet and effectively consult with their communities.
“Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly this consultation does not give equal access for all and, in essence, hugely disadvantages those who do not communicate electronically.
“This is a significant proportion of our population.
“Bennachie Community Council does not accept the current eight-week consultation period and requests that the consultation is extended to at least the end of March 2021 in order for a comprehensive and meaningful consultation to take place.
“We are very disappointed in the actions of Transport Scotland and the potential impact on those within our community at this already very challenging time.”
A spokeswoman for Transport Scotland said: “As for all Transport Scotland’s major infrastructure projects, consultation is an integral part of the design process for the A96 Dualling East of Huntly to Aberdeen scheme.
“Given the festive period and the current Covid restrictions, we have extended the usual feedback period by two weeks to eight weeks. We therefore do not intend to extend the feedback period further. However, any feedback received following this date will still be considered as we take forward the next stage in the design process.
“We would encourage anyone interested in our plans to view the virtual exhibition and give us their views.
“As we develop the preferred option in greater detail, individuals, communities and businesses affected by the work will be kept fully informed and their feedback carefully considered.”