A controversial Perthshire section of the A9 dualling project has been slammed as “lunacy” by objectors.
In the face of strong opposition from some locals to the suggested routes between Dowally and Ballinluig, Transport Scotland’s project team went back to the drawing board and came up with an alternative which has ignited a whole new storm of protest.
A community meeting attracted over 40 concerned residents and businesses and an action group was formed to fight the latest proposal.
“This news (the new proposed route) has sent a shockwave through the valley,” said local farmer Alexander Brewster of Rotmell Farm, Dunkeld,
“What the government is now proposing will devastate three family farms, a landscaping and plant nursery business employing over 30 people, numerous tourism enterprises, not to mention the visual and acoustic blight to what is currently a favourite public core path and some of the most scenic landscape in the Tay Valley.
“The turnout at the meeting by 44 residents and employers should send a strong message to the politicians that this community is not going to accept this lying down. It’s an outrage.”
No To A9 Offline Group say there is also an environmental dimension to what is now being considered.
“If adopted, this route would cut through three significant natural gorges which supports ancient natural woodland, some of the most significant known otter breeding holts in the valley, badger colonies and a range of other important flora and fauna which rely on these unspoiled and precious habitats,” said a spokesperson for the group.
Alex Butter, owner of Alex Butter Landscaping, who hosted the community meeting, said: “This proposal is lunacy. From my initial assessment, it will cost almost twice as much as the existing preferred route along the existing carriageway.
“It affects many more jobs, many more homes and the environmental impact is enormous.
“We employ 32 people which is a great deal in Highland Perthshire. This has come out of the blue. It has to be stopped.”
Mr Butter said that if local knowledge was tapped into, a solution to the route could be reached which would be more acceptable to local people.
While drawn up to meet local concerns, the protesters say the new alternative won’t mitigate any impact on the residents of the three settlements of Dowally, Guay and Kindallachan, “it will merely change which residents are affected”.
Perthshire MSP John Swinney said: “”I recognise there are a number of significant concerns within the community about the proposed route of the A9 dual carriageway.
“It is vital that thorough consideration is given to all of the relevant issues and that there is very wide consultation about the proposed route. I will continue to stress the need for extensive dialogue with local residents to the project team before any decisions about the route are made.”
A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “Following feedback from some members of the local community, an Eastern Offline option for the Tay Crossing to Ballinluig dualling project is currently being developed and assessed.
“This is being considered in addition to the online options presented at the public exhibitions in June 2015 and the community engagement event earlier this year.
“This design work is ongoing and once this appraisal has been completed a decision will be taken on whether the Eastern Offline option will be taken forward for further consideration.
“No decision has been taken and we continue to progress design work on all options, as well as consult with the local residents and communities – as we are doing the entire length of the route as the A9 dualling project progresses.”