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A96 upgrade works at Port Elphinstone could finally see a start date

By David Porter

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Plans for the upgrade of the Port Elphinstone roundabout where central to a technical planning application which was heard at the Garioch area committee, and it has been revealed that upgrade work is now expected to start in March of 2022.

Councillors heard an application for the variation of conditions relating to applications made in 2011 and 2013 relating to the Westgate South residential development at Blackhall Road in Inverurie.

Work on the A96 has been proposed to start in March next year
Work on the A96 has been proposed to start in March next year

As part of the plans for the 221 homes, work was needed either side of the roundabout to add an extra lane turning to Kemnay approaching from the south and merging lane on the eastern side.

This was initially to take place before the homes were started, then modified to when the 51st home was occupied.

This has never happened and 10 years after the application was first made, no work has ever been started.

The permission variation at the Garioch Area Committee, sought to resolve the breach of planning control, formalise the situation and allow a mechanism to secure the improvements, which are due to commence in early 2022.

The plans which are to be formalised with Transport Scotland now include accelerator lanes approaching from the Inverness direction on the A96 to the Port Elphinstone entrance, accelerator lanes from the Aberdeen to Kemnay direction on the A96, and an accelerator lane from the B993 going in the Inverness direction of the roundabout.

Many questions were raised including the safety aspect of the accelerator lane and the two lanes which are planned on the roundabout emerging on the West side of the roundabout as the accelerator lane and the two lanes have to merge to one lane before they cross the restricted road across the A96 bridge crossing the River Don.

Councillor Neil Baillie commented: "My fear is that fast moving traffic merging to one lane along this short distance before the bridge could result in this area becoming an accident blackspot.

"It will require traffic slowing down from three lanes to safely merge, while being aware of oncoming traffic from the Inverness direction.

"Also, I think there has been a missed opportunity not to include an accelerator lane from the Port Elphinstone exit of the roundabout in the direction of Aberdeen.

"This would have helped ease morning traffic travelling through Inverurie and Port Elphinstone onto the A96 going in the Aberdeen direction."

Fellow councillor Judy Whyte said: "This is essentially a piece of housework and it is disappointing it has taken 10 years to even get to this stage.

"Will it even be delivered?".

Planning officer Bruce Strachan responded: "This is as far as we have ever gotten with this application, there is information from the applicant that new fibre telecoms installed in the area have had to be taken into account, but minutes of agreement are due to be signed before Christmas and Transport Scotland need three months before they can start, so as far as we can judge works will start next year around the end of March."

The conclusion of the decision also ties into one of the longest standing unresolved planning appeals in the north-east which relates to a stopping up order for the pedestrian access over the A96 which links the housing to the nursery on the other side of the road.

This was first applied for in February 2019 has been on hold since December 2020 as it had been tied to the, as yet unresolved final decision on the A96 dualling commencing, which was the reason for it being applied for in the first place.

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