A major road improvement project could be delayed for years by a public inquiry – despite just four objections being lodged against it.
Plans for a new grade-separated road layout at the Laurencekirk junction on the A90 went on show at the start of this year following a decade-long campaign in response to the number of crashes where the route meets the A937.
Transport Scotland, the Scottish Government’s transport arm, had hoped to complete work on the junction by 2022.
But earlier this year, the body admitted it would not be able to set a definitive timescale on construction until it was known whether a public inquiry would be needed.
And now the Evening Express can reveal a probe is set to go ahead – despite just four people objecting to the plans.
North-east MSP Liam Kerr, who has written to the Scottish Government over the issue, said the project “simply can’t afford” to be delayed further.
He said: “The people of Laurencekirk need action on these plans and this latest information highlights the need for the Scottish Government to address the concerns of these four representatives as soon as possible.
“There can’t be any more delays with this – the pedal needs to be pushed down on mediating any of the fears to do with land ownership and access points.
“Despite there being objections, the SNP Government must have an idea of when work would start and this is something residents want to know.
“I will continue to push for answers on this because Laurencekirk is growing right now and needs the infrastructure to suit a thriving area, immediately.
“We saw the legal and technical hold-ups that occurred with the AWPR resulting in years of delays and the north-east simply can’t afford that to continue to happen with the Laurencekirk junction.”
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The four objections relate to the compulsory purchase of land needed for the project, as well as access points.
As well as the objections, Transport Scotland also received four general comments and two in favour of the project.
In response to Mr Kerr, Holyrood transport minister Michael Matheson said: “As with all trunk road schemes, it is only right that those affected have an opportunity to express their views and this is a statutory obligation that cannot be ignored or simply swept aside.
“Accordingly effective engagement with affected parties is something that Transport Scotland takes very seriously.
“Transport Scotland is currently negotiating with objectors to try and resolve objections where possible.
“However, should Transport Scotland be unsuccessful in removing all objections a public local inquiry may be required.
“As with all trunk road projects this is the statutory forum for considering objections received and not withdrawn.
“Progress of the scheme is dependent on the public reaction to the published draft orders and whether a public local inquiry is required to consider objections received and not withdrawn.
“Delivery of the scheme itself can only commence when the scheme is approved under the statutory procedures and thereafter a timetable for construction can be determined.”
Transport Scotland has also written to residents adivising them of the situation.