Residents living on the route of a planned major north-east road upgrade say the project will wreak havoc with wildlife in the area.
In December, Transport Scotland published its preferred route for the upgraded A96 between the east of Huntly and Aberdeen.
However, those living along the route have questioned why such a radical approach – which significantly deviates from the current road in some places – is necessary.
They believe the construction of the new road will lead to the loss of much-loved wildlife.
And they believe the project is at odds with the Scottish Government’s plan to reduce car use by 2030.
Karen Todd, who lives close to the new road near Old Rayne, said: “Something we are passionate about is wildlife and we feel there has not been enough investigation or consideration given to how the road is going to affect wildlife habitats and the environment.
“We would urge the government to look again and consider whether this road is absolutely necessary.
“It seems at odds with climate change targets and surely the money could be better spent on the NHS, education and upgrading public transport and other infrastructure given everything that has happened during the past year.”
Neighbour Sandra Rook, who along with husband Derek has planted thousands of trees since buying and renovating an old farmhouse in the area 20 years ago, warned of the “huge” environmental impact of the new road.
She said: “The environmental impact will be huge. We have planted around 4,000 trees since we have lived here.
“We do everything we possibly can to increase the amount of wildlife in the area and now it’s going to be ruined.”
Derek added: “If it comes as close [to the house] as it appears to on the plans, it would completely destroy the atmosphere and environment we’ve worked so hard to create.”
Lynn Andrew – who along with partner Gus Will completed a new build house only to find the road slicing through their family farm – also questioned the decision to construct a new road, rather than dual the existing route.
She said: “It feels a bit pointless building a whole new road when we have made a commitment under the Scottish Government’s climate change policy, encouraging people to use greener forms of travel and to specifically reduce car kilometres by 2030.
“Given the changes we have seen to commuting patterns and the introduction of flexible working across the country due to the pandemic as well as the cost impacts on the NHS and other services, we are hopeful that Transport Scotland will revisit their proposals and look to find ways to upgrade parts of the existing road thereby minimising the cost to tax payers and preventing the needless destruction of local agricultural land and rural communities.”
North-east Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald, an outspoken critic of the plans, said: “It begs the question of whether SNP ministers are at all serious when they talk about the climate emergency. How can it reduce carbon emissions to have two main roads in place of one?
”I would urge SNP ministers to go back to basics, upgrade the existing A96 to modern trunk road standards, and drop their plans for a whole new road.”
A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “Following detailed assessment work and consideration of feedback received, we have identified a preferred option between East of Huntly and Aberdeen which will include improved journey time and reliability for trunk road traffic, strengthening connections to Aberdeen City and between communities in Aberdeenshire improving road safety and providing opportunities for active travel.
“We are keen to let local communities and road users have their say on our proposals and 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.”