The Scottish Government has been urged to rethink plans to build a new dual carriageway in the north-east
North-east Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said upgrading the existing A96 route would be more cost effective and have less of an environmental impact.
Transport Scotland dropped this option and is reviewing plans for a new road in the area near Inverurie instead. Mr Macdonald said he was surprised the Scottish Government did not consult environmental agencies before deselecting the route.
He said: “It is beyond belief that the Scottish Government would make such an important decision about such a significant infrastructure project without seeking the views of the A96 Environmental Steering Group and its member organisations.
“This is especially important because of the concerns local people have expressed regarding the impact the remaining routes will have on the local environment, including threatened species like the curlew.
“It is even more extraordinary from a government that has declared a climate emergency yet sees no need to consult its own environmental agencies on a decision to build a brand new dual carriageway in a rural area.”
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Transport minister Michael Matheson said: “As part of the development and assessment of initial route options for the A96 Dualling East of Huntly to Aberdeen Scheme, Transport Scotland and its consultant, AmeyArup Joint Venture, have consulted with statutory bodies including Historic Environment Scotland.
“Consultation does not focus on specific route option choices, but helps inform the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges route options assessment process and consequent selection of route options by identifying environmental sensitivities and potential environmental impacts across the scheme, and informs how these impacts could be reduced through design development and mitigation.”
A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “As part of our engagement with statutory consultees, we have established an Environmental Steering Group to provide regular updates on the work being progressed on the dualling programme.
“Since design work commenced on the East of Huntly to Aberdeen section in 2017 we have consulted regularly with all the members of the Environmental Steering Group on the development of the scheme.”