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Community leaders are to press Scottish transport minister Jenny Gilruth to confirm a time frame and a date for allocating funding to the Nairn bypass

By Donald Wilson

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Traffic Nairn Picture HNM.
Traffic Nairn Picture HNM.

Community councillors and businesses are to press transport minister Jenny Gilruth to confirm both a time frame and when funding will be allocated for the Nairn bypass.

The call for clarity comes amid growing concern that a newly-announced review of the plan to dual the A96 all the way between Inverness and Aberdeen could see the project scaled back.

There have been assurances that the Nairn bypass will go ahead either way, but there are worries the review could delay it.

Chairman of Nairn West and Suburban Community Council, Dr Alastair Noble, said he fears funding is going to be a stumbling block in the wake of the review announcement.

.Doctor Alastair Noble.Picture: Gary Anthony..
.Doctor Alastair Noble.Picture: Gary Anthony..

He believes if necessary the bypass could be downgraded to two lanes instead of dual carriageway so the government can finance other priorities in Nairn including new schools, town centre regeneration, flood alleviation, and infrastructure to cope with planned future house-building.

Ms Gilruth will be visiting Rosebank School playground in Nairn on Thursday to see first hand the problems that exist with high volumes of trunk road traffic often at a standstill negotiating its way through the town.

She will undertake a walkabout on Nairn town centre and meet local business leaders and community leaders concerned about how lack of action on the bypass route is making it impossible to plan for the future.

Dr Noble has described the meeting as “pivotal” to the future of Nairn.

“We will be seeking answers instead of platitudes from the minister about this project.

“The meeting provides an important opportunity for high-level engagement with the minister directly responsible for the Nairn bypass and A96 dualling. A repetition of political will to deliver the bypass will not be sufficient.”

Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth.
Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth.

Earlier this month, in the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Conservative north-east MSP Liam Kerr said a power sharing agreement between the Green Party and SNP to carry out an “evidence based review” of the A96 dualling would delay the delivery of the scheme.

SNP MSP for Nairn, Fergus Ewing, has described the delivery of the bypass as “a matter of honour” for him after years of campaigning.

Ms Gilruth said: “[Mr Ewing] will know that the A96 Inverness to Nairn, including the Nairn bypass which runs from Inverness to Hardmuir, is separate to the wider A96 review process which is currently being undertaken.”

But Dr Noble said: “We have heard this before but we are no further forward. We need to know when the spade will go in the ground and when the bypass will be delivered – and 2035 is just not acceptable.

“The people of Nairn need answers, planners need answers, developers need answers, businesses need answers because we cannot continue to debate future planning for Nairn until this issue is resolved.

“ A repetition of assurances of political will to deliver the bypass will not be sufficient.

“The minister on Thursday should be asked to recognise that the future development of Nairn was conditional upon – and therefore should await – the completion of the bypass; and she should be asked to confirm both the funding-allocation and the time-frame for delivery.”

Meeting the minister on Thursday will be newly-elected Highland Council members, representatives of local community councils, Nairn BID, and business leaders including representatives from Grigorhill industrial estate who fear housing development proposed for Nairn East could adversely impact on their operations and future growth there.

Dr Noble said estimates for dualling of the A96 from Inverness to Hardmuir at Auldearn had been estimated at £1billion.

“A single carriageway bypass from Gollanfield to Auchnacloich has been estimated at £200m.

“If the government is short of money a two-lane bypass should be considered with roundabouts at Gollanfield, Cawdor Road for traffic to Gordon’s Sawmill at Balblair, and at Auchnacloich.

“There are much bigger priorities which need addressing in Nairn, including flood-alleviation in the Fishertown, a new Academy fit for purpose with proper sports facilities for the community and for future growth, provision of infrastructure for housing and industry to provide jobs.

“The money saved on a two-lane bypass could be spent on these key infrastructure projects.”

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