Transport bosses have extended the consultation period of a major north-east road improvement project – a move that has been welcomed by locals.
In December, Transport Scotland announced its preferred route for the dualling of the A96 between Huntly and Aberdeen.
A consultation into the proposed route was due to end on February 15, six weeks after the route was announced.
But transport secretary Michael Matheson has confirmed the process will run for another three weeks until March 8.
Bennachie Community Council had branded the initial consultation period “unacceptable” and regional Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald wrote to Transport Scotland asking for more time for people to give their views.
Mr Macdonald said: “I’m delighted that the Scottish Government has climbed down and done a U-turn on the length of period for the consultation.
“I was very disappointed that the chief executive of Transport Scotland wrote to me only over a week ago to refuse to extend the consultation period.
“However, all the communities who will be affected by these plans will be very pleased that they’ve seen sense and agreed to give people a further three weeks to give their feedback.”
Sarah Robinson from Bennachie Community Council also said the body were pleased the extension had been granted.
She said: “At the end of last year Bennachie Community Council asked Transport Scotland to extend the consultation period until the end of March 2021.
“We were advised both in writing and at the recent virtual community council forum, which took place on January 29, that this request would not be granted. We are very pleased to see that Transport Scotland has changed its mind and has now decided to extend the consultation period until March 8. There is a considerable amount of detail that needs to be examined and this extra time is most welcome. If you have not already looked at the prefered option I urge you to do so and make your views known to Transport Scotland.”
Transport secretary Michael Matheson said that in light of Christmas and the coronavirus pandemic they have decided to extend the consultation.
He said: “As with 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.
“Recognising the impact of the festive period and the Covid-19 restrictions, we had already extended the usual feedback period by two weeks to eight weeks.
“However, I recognise the widespread interest in this scheme and in light of the ongoing restrictions and feedback received, I am happy to extend the consultation period for a further three weeks to let the public have their say on the preferred option.
“As we continue to 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.”