Plans for £11.81m road go back to the Council chamber

Controversial road plans return to the Council chamber

COUNCILLORS WILL AGAIN be asked to approve an Elgin road that has already cost the taxpayer £3.54million without a piece of tarmac being laid.

Following what the local authority describe as “general approval” by previous objectors to a presentation of changes to the controversial west approach road plans, members of the economic development and infrastructure committee will discuss amended proposals with a view to a new planning application.

However, one of the main voices against the road development insisted last night that the fight against the road would go on – and will very likely intensify if councillors insist on pressing ahead.

While planning for the road proposals was thrown out in November last year, a reaffirmation of the commitment to the project was made by the council in December. That resulted in instructions being issued for a redesigned road, with a new crossing over the Inverness/Aberdeen rail line drawn up to address reasons for the original refusal.

Cost increases of £2.6million are detailed in a report before councillors, which cites delays, inflation and construction cost increases along with property acquisition and design changes as the main reasons for the increase.

A new total cost for the project is being given at £11.81million of which £3.54million has already been spent.

James MacKessack-Leitch, one of the many who spoke out against the proposals when they were rejected by the planning committee last year, praised the Council and their Consultants who he said had “worked constructively with the community to improve the design of the proposals where possible”.

However, the Moray Greens Convener added: “The fundamental differences over the route, cost, and necessity, as well as concerns over the associated air and noise pollution of this proposal, have not changed, and I fully expect the campaign against the proposed Western Link Road to continue.

“Just yesterday we heard Councillors welcoming the design contract for the new dualled A96 – a project that will give Elgin a de-facto bypass, and remove more than a quarter of traffic from the city’s streets, putting into serious question the need for the proposed Link Road.  At the very least Councillors should postpone the Western Link Road project until these details are made clear.

“But of real concern are the spiralling costs of the project as highlighted in the report, particularly in these straitened times. How often have the people of Moray been told to tighten our belts, cut our cloth to fit, or make the best of a bad situation as services are cut, libraries close, roads and buildings crumble – while the Western Link Road project attracts ever more resources?

“Councillors will have an opportunity to end this saga on Tuesday, and with costs increasing by over £2.6 million in less than a year the time has surely come to stop throwing good money after bad and invest in projects we actually need.”

Should the committee agree when they debate the report on Tuesday it will go to a Full Council meeting on November 11 for approval of the additional costs and the preparation of a new planning application.

The primary changes being proposed to the design for the new route are:

  • Extending the 30mph speed limit on the A96 150m west of the new junction.
  • Removing traffic islands to reduce cycling hazards.
  • Reduce the road width generally to 6m to slow traffic.
  • Remove the centre line marking and minimise other road markings where possible.
  • Provide a footway on the east side of the whole route in addition to a cycleway on the west side.
  • Minimise the road signs to reduce clutter.
  • Better facilities at junctions for cyclists and pedestrians.
  • Realignment of the road south of the railway to manage traffic speeds better.
  • Additional pedestrian and cycle junctions and crossings.
  • Improved access to the wetlands.
  • Bus stops moved to on-carriageway and shelters provided in exposed locations.
  • A chronology of the project is here