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Local politicians and community councillors fear the prospect of a Nairn bypass being delivered by the government are fast disappearing

By Donald Wilson

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Traffic in Nairn.
Traffic in Nairn.

Despite assurances on a recent visit by transport minister Jenny Gilruth that the Scottish Government remains committed to delivery of the relief road for the town, no timescale has been offered despite frequent requests when challenged directly by community councillors and The Inverness Courier to give a start date.

At her meeting in Nairn Ms Gilruth said Transport Scotland would be in touch once the capital spending review was completed but nothing has been heard since.

There was almost a feeling of resignation at the June meeting of Nairn West and Suburban Community Council where it was confirmed there is no ‘Plan B’ as an alternative to dualling. Community councillor Phillip Stuart said a ‘Plan B’ was needed if a dualled bypass was not going ahead.

“The lack of this bypass is affecting the whole economy along the Moray Coast, not just Nairn,” he said.

Councillor Joan Noble said: “It’s getting to the stage where we may need to lie down on the road.

“There were by-passes planned for Keith, Elgin and Nairn in 2012 and it was supposed to be completed after the Queensferry crossing in 2019 and none of them have even started.

“Should we have a ‘Plan B’ – just a road, not even dualled to get the traffic out of Nairn?”

Secretary of the community council, Brian Stewart, said the answer from the minister was that a single carriageway was not even being contemplated. He said: “They are pitching it to a full-scale dualling and are not willing to look at a scaled down version which raises the spectre if we are not going to get an all singing all dancing bypass we’re going to get nothing. If we get nothing what are we going to do?”

He added: “If we’re worried the bypass is not going to happen in the next five to 10 years then it follows we have to say to Highland Council they have no business planning new suburbs for Nairn in that timescale. The bypass and other infrastructure improvements are absolutely critical preconditions for Nairn’s future development.”

Newly-elected Highland councillor Michael Green said if there are no specific answers from the transport minister: “We can only assume it’s ‘extend and pretend’.” Provost Laurie Fraser added: “I think the decision has been adjourned sine die.”

In a bid to step up pressure on the government, Highland Council overwhelmingly supported a motion by newly-elected SNP member for Nairn, Paul Oldham, pressing for answers. His motion sought an assurance that the government remains wholly committed to the dualling of the A96 from Smithton to Hardmuir which includes the bypass. He urged the government to commit the required funding to make the swiftest progress and called for a ‘detailed timetable’ for the project.

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