Moray councillors have taken the unusual decision of cutting through their normal procedures to save time in considering the controversial plans for a west approach road in Elgin.
It was expected that consideration of the plan that has drawn around 800 public comments would be put to members of the planning and regulatory services committee later this year.
However, at a meeting of that committee this week the chairman, Fochabers/Lhanbryde councillor Douglas Ross, used the question time session to propose that the process is accelerated by taking the application directly to a public hearing.
Councillor Ross’ proposal came on the condition that the new route is, as expected, recommended for approval by planning officials.
He told the committee that it was clear given the level of public interest in the proposal that it would be required to go to a public hearing, adding: “I think it would make sense to bring it forward straight away.”
While concerns were expressed by councillors over the unusual step they agreed that in this case that would be acceptable.
The £8.5million plan to connect Elgin’s Edgar Road retail park with the A96 was brought back to the council three years ago and has been at the heart of public protests and controversy ever since.
Speaking for the action group against the plans, Designing Streets, Caroline Webster welcome the move to advance the planning decision by several months. She said: “We support the decision to bring this forward.
“A public hearing will give everyone the chance to make their views known directly.”