An historic ground-cutting ceremony on the edge of Perth has cleared the way for the city’s biggest expansion in a generation.
The new A9/A85 junction will unlock land for thousands of homes, creating new businesses and jobs and triggering an estimated £500 million boost to the local economy.
Perth and Kinross Council believes the three year project will also help ease congestion and improve air quality in the city centre.
Balfour Beatty was awarded the £35 million job earlier this summer.
The local authority battled to secure planning permission after fierce opposition to the new road being built on woodland close to Perth Crematorium.
St Johnstone FC also claimed the road would result in the loss of a crucial training pitch beside McDiarmid Stadium. The Saints later dropped their fight against a compulsory purchase order and agreed to move their field.
Council leader Ian Miller joined contractor Balfour Beatty and representatives of Scape Civil Engineering at Thursday morning’s launch ceremony on Crieff Road.
Mr MIller said: “Today is an important milestone in the development of Perth’s ambitions to allow the economic and physical growth of the city.
“This is a hugely significant project, which will bring benefits for both local and through traffic, improve air quality in the city and unlock land for business and housing development.”
Referring to the news that local entrepreneur Simon Howie wants to invest in a major expansion of Inveralmond Trade Park, Mr Miller said: “We have already seen Rossco Properties (Mr Howie’s firm) seize the potential this new road network will bring.
“This support from a well-respected local company demonstrates the value investment of the surrounding road infrastructure has for the city.”
Mr Miller said: “The importance of this scheme for Perth cannot be underestimated.
“It is essential to the economic growth and vibrancy of the city, and wider region, and is fundamental to our ambition for Perth as one of the great small cities of Europe.”
Hector MacAulay, Balfour Beatty regional managing director for Scotland, said: “We are pleased to get construction underway on this significant scheme to support the economic development of Perth and to be working with local businesses to provide further benefits to the local economy.
“Our early collaboration with the council on its design, coupled with our vast experience in delivering major highway infrastructure schemes, will support the efficient delivery of this project.”
Mark Robertson, chief executive of Scape Group, added: “Infrastructure projects like this have the ability to give an area a significant economic boost by attracting and supporting local business, generating jobs, increasing the population’s well-being and improving connectivity.”
The new road is scheduled to open in spring 2019.
Road to pave way for £1bn Bertha Park
The road to yesterday morning’s ground-cutting ceremony has been a rocky one for Perth and Kinross Council.
The local authority was bombarded with complaints when it emerged that the new route would cut through woodland near Perth Crematorium.
Andrew Pennycook, owner of James McEwan and Son Funeral Directors, had urged councillors at a meeting in February 2015 not to push ahead with the proposal. He said that hundreds of people’s ashes would have been scattered around the area since 1962.
“Let the city’s dead rest in peace,” he said.
But councillors approved planning consent after an impassioned plea by council leader Ian Miller.
He warned that if the road did not go ahead, it would jeopardise future expansion plans for the city.
The new road will provide a link to the £1 billion Bertha Park area.
Springfield Properties has won backing to build 3,000 new homes at the 800-acre site. The development, which will also accommodate a new 1,100-capacity secondary school, is expected to generate some 2,000 jobs.
Work on the newbuild community is due to begin in the coming months and will be rolled out over the next 30 years. The site will includes more than 60 acres of employment land, such as shops, offices and restaurants.
Community and healthcare facilities are also planned, as well as a park and ride site and possibly a primary school.
Earlier this week, The Courier revealed that another major housing plan had been given the go ahead following a successful appeal to Scottish Ministers.
The 1,500 home Almond Valley project was originally rejected by councillors after 80 objections from residents.
Opponents raised concerns about the size of the development and the loss of countryside.
What the work involves
The relief road is part of the Perth Transport Futures Project which will be carried out in four phases, ultimately leading to the development of the Cross Tay Link Road.
Phase one includes:
- A grade separated interchange between the A9 and A85
- A link road between the new interchange and Bertha Park
- Two new roads connecting the A85 to the new interchange
- A roundabout on Ruthvenfield Road
- A bridge over the River Almond
- A footbridge over the A9, linking Tulloch to Inveralmond
- A culvert for Perth Lade under the A9
Given the expected long-term benefits of the A9/A85 project, it is clear to see why Perth and Kinross Council has fought tooth and nail to get to this stage.
In the early days of development, more than 3,000 people signed a petition calling for the scheme to be scrapped, accusing the local authority of being “heartless” and “cold-blooded” for building over woods near the crematorium.
And there were serious concerns about the potential impact on St Johnstone FC’s future, given that it would have to give up its training ground site.
In the face of overwhelming opposition, the council would not have been blamed for ripping up the plans and going back to the drawing board.
Instead, they stuck to their guns, insisting the advantages of the scheme far outweighed the objections.
It was an unfortunate, ugly start to what could be a bright and genuinely exciting future for the Fair City.