The effects on flooding, the landscape and CO2 emissions
Environmental impacts are important selection criteria for consideration when selecting the best route. They also represent some of the biggest factors that directly affect local communities. Below we outline some of the major environmental concerns related to the north of Inverurie routes.
INCREASED RISK OF FLOODING
We all remember the devastating local floods of 2016 and the terrible financial and emotional impact it had, and is still having, on many members of our communities... damage to property, the loss of personal possessions, displacement during the cleanup and the impact on insurance costs and house prices for those in affected areas.
The construction of a major river and floodplain crossing near Kintore, as proposed under the north routes, is likely to seriously impact flood risk, and this is supported by findings in Transport Scotland's own assessments.
The A96 Dualling Programme, Strategic Environmental Assessment, Tier 2 Environmental Report issued by Transport Scotland in May 2015 presents information which clearly indicates that any route coming off before Inverurie and going around to the north of Aberdeen is the least logical choice - see table of risks below.
Although the routes in the table are not the current proposals, it does illustrate well the common environmental flaws associated with routes north, in particular those associated with flooding due to the river crossing on the currently proposed Violet route. These risks suggest that the options of widening the existing A96, or a route to the south of Inverurie are the most logical options.
"Typically long term, permanent effects which are unlikely to be avoidable and may be difficult to mitigate, even partially. In this option, the Rivers Urie and Don, their associated tributaries and floodplains are unavoidable and dualling is likely to affect large fluvial flood risk areas. There is potential for significant permanent impacts on flooding through exacerbation of flood risk (to already existing and potentially new sensitive receptors) through dualling. "
Strategic Environmental Assessment, Tier 2 Environmental Report issued by Transport Scotland
The reduction of carbon based emissions is something we hear about frequently on the news and from our government, and Scotland's current legislation is to reduce Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 20% of 1990 volumes by 2050.
The proposed routes north are approx. 16% longer than the proposed route south, and will be considerably longer than dualling the short existing single carriageway section of the A96. Using Department for Transport Scotland traffic figures we conservatively estimate that the total emissions from all these vehicles travelling the extra 3-5km is 10-17 tonnes CO2 per day. Over only 10 years this gives between 38,000 and 62,000 tonnes of extra CO2 just because of the extra 3-5km travel. In addition, building each extra km of national road has an average carbon footprint of 793 tonnes.
It is hard to see how this plan fits into the integrated low carbon transport system and makes any provision to utilize new rail and public transport alternatives?
IMPACT ON THE LANDSCAPE
Approximately 344 ha of land will be lost to the road. As well as the economic impact of losing prime agriculture, the loss of agriculture lessens further our ability to reduce food imports, sustain local production, and protect supported habitats and wildlife. Losing this land is likely to lessen the Scottish Government’s ability to meet targets for food production. Most of this is some of Scotland’s most productive land and the rest is small woodland areas, which provide valuable wildlife corridors across Aberdeenshire. These wildlife corridors could be lost as the road will cut them.
Numbers of farms split;
On the Violet section there are 20 farms split.
On the Blue Section 24 farms split.
On the Green Section 19 farms split.
On the Pink section 20 farms split.
The Cyan section links Blue and Pink to the existing route and has 2 farms split.
Fourteen of these have more than one route but the total number of Farms on a complete route is 71!
On the Orange Route 14 farms split.
On the Brown section 11 farms split.
Note: On these farms because much of the route is parallel to the existing A96 most fields are shortened rather that split at angles and through the middle.
The proposed routes for this section Inverurie to Huntly and Northern sections of the proposed A96 dualling project will be placed in areas of now pristine and quiet countryside. The road and its traffic will be visible to the next hill and the traffic noise will be projected further especially as most of the proposed routes are elevated over hills.
There will also be an impact on the local biodiversity - the proposed road developments will also either destroy the habitat or reduce the habitat connectivity of a number of protected species which are listed on the Scottish Biodiversity List. For further reading on species affected please follow this link.
In Transport Scotland's leaflet on Initial Route Options one of the reasons for discounting the Q route was "Dualling in the A947 corridor will induce impacts in an area unspoiled by dual carriageway, with no compensatory benefit generated along the existing A96 dual carriageway." This is precisely the argument we have against the northern route, which would have significantly more impact on unspoiled countryside.
Ancient burial sites at Balbithan Woods, Hill of Balbithan, and East & West Balbithan. “In the Shadow of Bennachie”, a book about archaeological sites in the area, shows iron age huts, burial cairns and "prehistoric landscapes” scattered across the local area. It is quite likely that any of the route options could impact historic sites and proper due diligence must be undertaken to ensure we don't damage sites of significance.
One specific impact already identified is that the north routes lie in the vicinity of the scheduled monument Hill of Selbie Cairn (SM 12434) and as such Historic Environment Scotland will be reaching out to Transport Scotland to discuss.
Both the G3 and V3 routes would adversely and permanently affect listed properties and historical sites in the area. Listing is supposed to constrain reckless or rampant development, yet this facet is being ignored. Sandwiched awkwardly between routes G3 and V3 is the Grade A listed Bourtie House, with its Grade B listed garden cottage. The 800 year old nearby Bourtie Church is Grade A listed, the churchyard is C listed and the Old Manse B listed. It may be noted that in the past the owners of Bourtie House were refused permission for an extension to their drive to enable access to the flight pond of the house. If such strict control is exercised over such a modest change, how can Transport Scotland be allowed such a large road? Also in the area is Hillbrae. Old maps date this property back to the 1590’s.
Robert the Bruce was King of Scots from 1306 to his death in 1329. Both routes B3 and G3 would cut into and ruin Barra Hill. This was the site of a well documented battle fought by Robert the Bruce. Barra Hill contains a very old fort with Robert the Bruce being a key player in the conflict that took place here. This site is protected by Historic Scotland under the Scottish Historical Environment Policy of 2009.
Situated by Barra Hill is the carefully renovated 16th century tower house Barra Castle, which is also Grade A listed. The site is a venue for weddings, corporate events and parties. Thus, beyond residents being clearly disadvantaged by the road development, people from outside the immediate locality look to the area, its history and its facilities for their very special times. The area clearly means much to a wide circle of individuals from a considerable geographic range.
It can be confidently surmised that widening the existing road would be highly unlikely to affect any of these environmental factors in any significant way.