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Call for city-only group to make bypass decisions

By Andrew Dixon

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AT least two-fifths of the councillors who will decide a preferred route for the much-awaited Inverness bypass are from outwith the city.

The make-up of the cross-party working group, set to pick the route of the link road between the A82 and A9, has been criticised by Inverness South councillor Jim Crawford, who insists its 15 members should be from the Highland Capital with the exception of Highland Council’s transport committee chairman, Councillor John Laing (Eilean a’ Cheò), and convener Sandy Park (Nairn).

Councillor Crawford takes exception to the inclusion of administration leader Michael Foxley (Lib-Dem, Fort William and Ardnamurchan), Nairn provost Laurie Fraser (Independent), Landward Caithness councillor Robert Coghill (Independent), and Caol and Mallaig councillor Allan Henderson (Independent Alliance Group). They will all have a say on a preferred route from Dores Road to the A82 prior to a public consultation exercise from 23rd November to 16th January.

“I hoped it would be made up of only Inverness councillors because we will be held responsible no matter what,” said Councillor Crawford, who insisted there must be full trans-parency throughout the process. “But this group has been set up on a political basis when it is not a political decision that we looking at.”

He is adamant more than one route should be put to public consultation, but is not aware of how the group will reach its decision.

The group — which includes Inverness provost Jimmy Gray (Labour, Inverness Millburn); Lib-Dems David Henderson (Inverness Ness-side), Hamish Wood (Aird and Loch Ness) and Thomas Prag (Inverness South); and Norrie Donald (Independent, Inverness Ness-side) — will hold its first meeting on Thursday.

It will also include three SNP councillors, but they will not be named until today as group leader Drew Hendry felt it was “inappropriate” to put their representatives forward ahead of yesterday’s by-election for Inverness South.

“I thought it would be disrespectful to the voters in Inverness South because the candidates there clearly have an interest in this and we felt it was unfair to look at who would be on the group without knowing all the councillors representing areas along the route,” Councillor Hendry explained.

The transport committee chairman, Councillor John Laing, is not sure if councillors will put more than one preferred route to public consultation. However, he hopes the group will be able to recommend just one route to the full council before local elections in May next year. “I have got every confidence that, whoever the full list of members will be, they will come to a satisfactory conclusion after looking at the options. It will then be up to the full council to decide what the final outcome is,” he added.

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