MORAY COUNCIL LEADER Stewart Cree has hit out at Councillors who voted against the Elgin Western Link Road this week, accusing them of being more interested in securing votes.
Councillor Cree expressed his disappointment that as a result of Wednesday’s decision there will be no new rail crossing – a decision that he believes will eventually be recognised as a ‘folly’.
“It is disappointing when a project like this, with clear strategic purpose behind it, is not recognised as such by many councillors who previously supported the proposals,” the Keith councillor said, adding: “But [they] now appear to be more interested in securing votes than securing a sustainable road infrastructure capable of serving the significant developments planned for the South of Elgin.”
While the current fall of one of the longest running sagas in Scottish local authority history has been widely welcomed by campaigners, many more have been left frustrated by the decision that could cost the financially press council millions – as well as the possible loss of vital new homes around Elgin.
Laying out his view of the damage the decision may cause, Councillor Cree said: “For the sake of placating a minority of vocal residents, drivers in Elgin will continue to face peak time delays when travelling between the north and south of Elgin.
“The existing bridge is operating beyond its capacity and the level crossing is from an era that never foresaw today’s traffic volumes. Furthermore, the planned improvements to the railway timetable will result in even more frequent delays for those attempting to use this ‘relief valve’ in our overstretched system.
“I can only hope that, with the planned growth of the south of Elgin, Moray residents will come to recognise the folly of this decision.”
The Council Leader added that he found it bizarre that there appeared to be agreement within the Council that an additional rail crossing was “both desirable and unavoidable” – and yet nobody seemed willing or able to propose an alternative.
“This project has been included in the Moray Local Development Plan for many years and been approved for the past decade by the council,” he said, adding: “The Development Plan is approved by the Scottish Government’s planning reporters.
“It will be a great shame if this decision proves, as I believe it will, to act as an impediment to new housing provision and other developments in the South of Elgin, which must rely on proper roads infrastructure which is not now going to be in place.”
While opponents of the link road have pointed to the Scottish Government plans for a bypass around Elgin as they dual the length of the A96, those supporting the road plans have pointed out that SNP ministers had emphasised the importance of Moray Council delivering their own road infrastructure programme.
As far back as June 2011 this was noted in a paper to the economic development and infrastructure committee, which said: “Two former Scottish Ministers with responsibility for Transport (i.e. Tavish Scott and Stewart Stevenson), during past visits to Elgin, have emphasised the importance of The Moray Council delivering on their own road infrastructure programme, including a distributor road in the west of Elgin, if the Council are to expect Government to improve the A96 in Elgin.”
Last night the SNP group at the local authority reacted by accusing the Council leader of attempting to deflect attention away from his own failings.
Two Administration group councillors were key to the link road vote going the way of the opposition – planning committee chair Chris Tuke and Elgin councillor James Allan, who had previously quit the ruling group alongside his Tory colleague Douglas Ross before being talked back into rejoining them.
A spokesman for the SNP group in Moray said: “The council leader is trying to deflect attention away from his own failure, which has cost his administration a key vote.
“Instead of finding someone to blame, perhaps Councillor Cree should figure out why he is unable to persuade his own group of councillors to vote with him on critical strategic matters.”