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PICTURES: New Inverness road plan gets mixed reception

By Neil MacPhail

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A9-A96 link road plan.
A9-A96 link road plan.

PLANS for a new single carriageway linking Inshes and Smithton (A9/A96) went on public display this week and despite the project being well trailered, both exhibitions experienced a steady stream of people.

Two virtual reality depictions of travelling on the three-mile Eastlink route, with one being an inter-active display, attracted special interest.

Detailed Transport Scotland brochures were available but display boards in Raigmore Community Centre and Smithton Church gave excellent at-a-glance detail.

One frank board listed potential environmental impacts including that 11 properties would experience “significant” traffic noise increase, and there would be impact on open farmland and campus landscapes, and on views from a number or residential properties.

Thirty one individual trees or tree group features would be impacted while there would be habitat loss for some bats and breeding birds.

Increased flood risk on four watercourses was a possibility, with a beneficial impact on flooding for three watercourses.

Similarly another board highlighted the considerable lengths taken to avoid or reduce potential adverse effects on the environment.

The included detailed environmental impact assessments, (EIA) which considered the biological, physical and historic environment, local communities and landowners and the current or planned future use of the environment and mitigation efforts taken.

A non technical summary of the EIA was available for the public to take away.

Visitors were mostly positive about the plans, especially the extensive 4.5 miles of shared use foot and cycle paths, but several remained concerned that traffic coming from the A96 would exacerbate the traffic snarl-up currently experienced at Inshes.

The Rev Dr Donald Boyd said: “It is good to see the scheme reaching these advanced stages because the sooner they deal with the dangerous queuing traffic on the A9 at Inshes the better.”

Another visitor Gordon Anderson from Crown said: “I learned that the roundabout layout at the eastern end of the road is dependent on the A96 being dualled at that point, but goodness knows when that will happen.”

The cost is coming from part of the Scottish Government’s
£315 million Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal.

Cabinet Secretary for Transport Michael Matheson said the road would improve journey times on the local road network, complementing local road improvement proposals by Highland Council by improving the network between the A9 and A96.

Related article: Full speed ahead for new road to link A96 and A9 between Inshes and Smithton in Inverness

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