MORAY COUNCILLORS HAVE approved a financial package that could see the Elgin Western Link road project brought back to planners for approval.
The costs of the controversial scheme have risen to £11.8million – a price tag that was only approved by members of the development and infrastructure services committee last month on the casting vote of the committee chairman.
Voting on the issue at Full Council on Wednesday was only marginally more clear-cut – in particular with the withdrawal of three Councillors, two from the SNP and one Independent, who declared a personal interest in the outcome.
That allowed the administration to approve that the Capital Plan be adjusted to reflect the revised figures – effectively paving the way for a new submission to be put before the planning committee.
A vote of 11 to 10 (a further independent and SNP councillor abstained) saw defeat for the SNP motion led by Buckie councillor Gordon McDonald that the entire project be halted until more was known of the Scottish Government plans for an Elgin by-pass.
A passionate plea for the road plans was made by the chairman of the development and infrastructure committee, John Cowe, who said: “With the creation of new houses to the south and north of the town, this road could help bring in £4.5million each year in council tax and will create economic opportunities in Elgin and Moray.”
Following the meeting Councillor McDonald insisted that the reasoning for the road plan, that he set in motion when Council Convener some years ago, simply no longer made sense, saying: “I am not against the route, I was just asking for a deferral of the timescale.
“But I’m also concerned about the fact that this is going to cost the taxpayers in Moray £770,000 for the next 30 years – that is a huge amount of money when we are looking at making massive cuts in services, and will take a big chunk of the out of the equation.”
However, Council Leader Stewart Cree insisted: “The money we have spent or will spend in the western link route will have a huge return for the people of Elgin and more importantly for the people of Moray.
“It will open up areas for development, allow a much better interchange of traffic within Elgin and help reduce congestion. It will do so much for Elgin and for Moray that I am more than happy to have supported it.”