Pandemic budget pressures could put the brakes on Perth and Kinross Council’s flagship Cross Tay Link Road project.
Councillors will meet later this month to discuss the fate of the £118 million scheme, which aims to ease city centre congestion and tackle air pollution.
The talks will be part of a wider capital budget review which will look again at some of the region’s biggest investments, such as a new-build Perth High School and the transformation of Perth City Hall.
Perthshire Chamber of Commerce claims the proposed link road (CTLR) could be paused or even rejected after Covid-19 put an estimated £50m strain on council resources.
The business organisation argued the project is key to Perth’s future and potential jobs could be lost if it is scrapped.
Chief executive Vicki Unite has urged councillors to “show ambition” or see the region “wither”.
“This is a huge decision that will have a massive impact on the future direction and prosperity of the area for years to come. This project must go ahead to protect the future growth of the Perth city region.”
She said benefits include better connections and accessibility to the city, triggering more high quality jobs and visitors.
“It will enable new, planned and committed developments, helping to secure the livelihoods of many new and existing local businesses facing a huge challenge from the impact of Covid-19.
“If we are to come out of this pandemic and not see communities wither, we need to grasp the opportunities for growth.
“Our businesses and the people they employ are relying on councillors to make the right decision and fully back CTLR. Anything less would be disastrous for the future of our city and the wider region.”
The new road, connecting the A9 over the River Tay with the A93 and A94 north of Scone, has proved controversial, with protests held against its planned route through a new housing estate.
The scheme, which still needs planning permission, generated 50 objections including opposition from three community councils.
Felicity Graham, co-convener of pressure group Perth Area Living Streets (PALS) has urged the council to think again.
She said: “A model of rampant economic development, regardless of the costs, has landed us in the climate emergency. The CTLR is part of this model.”
She said the new road will only reduce traffic on one of six arteries, but could increase congestion in towns and villages along the A94.
“Perth’s congestion problem can only be addressed by making it cheap and easy for those who want to come into the city to leave their cars on the outskirts and by ensuring through-traffic uses the existing bypass, instead of cutting through the city.
“Now is not the time to be spending on carving up Big Tree Country and damaging the Tay, an area of international conservation.”
She said investment should instead be made in low-traffic solutions, better broadband and tourism projects like city hall.
The group’s Roger Humphry added: “Most successful cities are choosing competitive city-centre development, not urban sprawl.
“They are doing this by making their cities more attractive to business and employees by becoming efficient at transport – particularly walking, cycling and public transport. Dundee, not a leader in this field, appears to be ahead of us.”
Council leader Murray Lyle said the road is “fundamental” to Perth’s future prosperity. “I and my administration support its construction 100% and will make every effort to get approval at the forthcoming meeting,” he said.
Councillor Grant Laing, leader of the local SNP group said: “We are still in the process of gathering relevant information from officers and will make a decision once all the details are available.”