Residents living close to the route of a major north-east road development have warned the project will have a “significant” impact on their lives.
However, the quango has faced a backlash from residents amid claims the consultation period – which ends next week – is not long enough.
Now residents who live close to the new route have spoken out about “errors” in the process which they believe has cost them a significant portion of land – and could render their homes uninhabitable.
Gus Will and his partner Lynn Andrew spent several years constructing a new house on his family’s farm near Old Rayne, and were halfway through the build when the first public exhibition was held in 2018.
Due to what the couple say was an oversight on the part of planners, the original plans cut through the middle of their new home.
And despite the road being re-routed slightly, they say it has resulted in the loss of a large chunk of the farm
Gus said: “Originally the pink route had been shown to go right through the middle of this plot – they didn’t even know there was going to be a house there.
“The engineering team came out to have a look and what was originally cutting off a single acre of my family’s farm is now taking off about 15%.
“The reason for choosing that specific plot to build on was that is it’s the area of the farm which is furthest from the current A96 and far away from any passing traffic.
“It’s been remapped but now we have an embankment starting about 10 metres from our front garden.”
He added: “The reason for us building here was to enable me to help work on the family farm – the need for which was reviewed and evaluated by way of a labour justification report during the planning permission process.
“We believe there was an error made where they missed our property during the design stage – had they carried out the required checks, we could have been informed and ceased the build – saving the loss in a large percentage of a small farm’s acreage and us living directly on a main dual carriageway.”
Lynn added: “The first thing we noticed at the public exhibition was that it would go through the middle of our house.
“We were encouraged to continue our house build at that point because we were reassured they would look into the issue and find a way to rectify it.
“The reason we chose our plot was to be in rural and quiet location and we deliberately built the house with a south-facing view towards Bennachie and the surrounding countryside, however, the new proposals for the road will ruin the view and result in high levels of noise and light pollution.
“We’ve had the house valued and unfortunately, if the road goes ahead, they believe it would be significantly devalued.
“We do appreciate the initial dialogue we had with Transport Scotland because at the time there were three route options and they were in a position to minimise the impact any road would have on local residents.
“Where we feel disappointed is with the most recent consultation process, due to the timing of the announcement days before Christmas and during a national lockdown it doesn’t feel like we’ve had the chance to have a proper dialogue with Transport Scotland and surrounding communities impacted by the proposals.”
Neighbour Karen Todd, who along with husband Mark has recently completed a renovation of their home after more than six years of work, said the project constitutes the creation of a new road, rather than an upgrade to the existing one.
And she warned the impact on the community would be “significant”.
Karen said: “We fell in love with the surrounding area and the spot the house is in, the new road is going to ruin that.
“The effect this is going to have on people’s day-to-day lives and mental health and wellbeing is going to be significant.
“We feel that this is being sold as a dualling of the existing road, but in reality, it isn’t. This is a whole new road in addition to the existing A96.”
Derek and Sandra Rook, who also live nearby, questioned why residents who were directly affected found out about the route at the same time as the public.
The couple have set up a petition urging transport bosses to rethink.
Derek said: “I think if people had known exactly what this entails they would have been quite sceptical, because this is a new highway.
“The intention was to dual it – but what we have ended up with is a brand-new road cutting through pristine countryside.
“When we went to the virtual exhibition that was the first time we heard about the road coming so close to our home.
“We didn’t find out until the same time as everyone else which is devastating to us. There is a lack of humanity and a lack of understanding of people’s feelings.
“We have a petition running and have questioned the need for this to be happening. Why don’t they stick to the existing road?”
Gus added: “As with planning applications, the people who are going to be directly affected are always contacted first. To find out at an exhibition for the general public that a large percentage of your land proposed to be taken from you is unacceptable.”
North-east Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald, who has previously spoken out against the plans, urged ministers to think again about the construction of a new route – and urged them to reconsider upgrading the existing road.
He said: “It is 10 years since the SNP Government made the commitment to dual the A96, but what is happening now is that a whole new dual carriageway is being planned alongside the existing trunk road.
“That will be devastating for those people whose homes are stranded between the two roads, but it also 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.”