Publication - FOI/EIR release

Huntly to Aberdeen section of the A96 dualling project: EIR release

Published: 31 Jan 2019

Information request and response under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004.

Published:
31 Jan 2019
Huntly to Aberdeen section of the A96 dualling project: EIR release
FOI reference: FOI/18/03589 and 18/03617  
Date received: 3 December 2018 
Date responded: 3 January 2019
 
Information requested
 
“In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2002; I write to request copies of all supporting material used to make the decision to de-select the existing A96 route from the options to be taken forward into the DMRB Stage 2 assessments for the East of Huntly to Aberdeen section of the A96 dualling project.
I also understand that comparison of all route options during this process is against a “do-minimum” scenario?
I request the details of what that “do minimum” scenario is for this section of the project.”
 
Response
 
As the information you have requested is ‘environmental information’ for the purposes of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs), we are required to deal with your request under those Regulations. We are applying the exemption at section 39(2) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), so that we do not also have to deal with your request under FOISA.
This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption, because there is no public interest in dealing with the same request under two different regimes. This is essentially a technical point and has no material effect on the outcome of your request.
 

Options for online dualling of the A96 were developed as part of the First Fix Alignments. Two corridors were developed, one between Colpy and Milton of Inveramsay (OLC) and one between Inveramsay and Port Elphinstone (OLI). Various alignments were developed within each corridor and were assessed as part of the First Fix Appraisal, taking cognisance of Engineering, Environmental and Traffic/Transportation issues.  Extracts covering the summary of the issues for both of the online corridors are provided below as well as details of the selected and deselected alignments. Details of the First Fix Appraisal, including plans and assessment tables, are provided in Appendix A & B.

Corridor Option OLC Alignment Assessments

Corridor Option

First Fix Alignments

OLC - 2km wide corridor (1km each side of the existing A96 centre line) from Colpy going south-eastward and terminating near Milton of Inveramsay

There are seven alignments within the Corridor comprising both online and offline options to the north and south of the existing A96. The alignments typically run from Colpy to Pitcaple. There are two short alignment links to test the feasibility of options around Pitcaple

There are seven First Fix Alignments within the OLC Corridor Option (OLC-001, OLC-002, OLC-003, OLC-004, OLC-005, OLC-006 and OLC-007) comprising both online options and offline options to the north and south of the existing A96. The alignments typically run from Colpy to Pitcaple. Additionally, there are two short First Fix Alignment Links within Corridor Option OLC (OLC-002b, OLC-006b), these alignment links are to test the feasibility of options around the challenging area of Pitcaple.

Engineering

  • A number of the First Fix Alignments within the OLC Corridor Option would have to cross the Aberdeen to Inverness Railway, the River Urie and Durno Burn Watercourse. A major adverse impact on alignment OLC-002 is the significant structures that are required to cross the various watercourses and associated floodplains.
  • Alignment OLC-007 which runs parallel to the south of the existing A96 and the Aberdeen to Inverness Railway has a potential impact on properties.
  • Alignments OLC-005 and OLC-006 have significant earthworks (cuttings up to 86m deep in the centre line of the road) in the southern section of the OLC Corridor Option associated with Gallows Hill, resulting in a major adverse impact.
  • The First Fix Alignments are heavily constrained around Pitcaple due to the Aberdeen to Inverness railway, Pitcaple Castle, Challenging topography and the River Urie, resulting in major adverse impacts.

Environment

  • Significant effects on landscape character are expected for all seven alignments with major adverse impacts from alignments OLC-003, OLC-004, OLC-005, OLC-006 and OLC-007 associated with impacts on Newton House and Williamston House GDLs along with very large scale earthworks at Gallows Hill, Hill of Knockallochie, Croft of Netherton and Pitcaple.
  • Major adverse impacts on the water environment are identified for all alignments where they cross the River Urie, Gadie Burn, Shevock Burn and The Kellock.
  • OLC-002, OLC-004, OLC-006 and OLC-007 have moderate adverse impacts on ecology arising from the watercourse crossings and habitat fragmentation of large blocks of ancient woodland and woodland.
  • Large stretches of each alignment are within prime agricultural land and numerous properties and businesses lie in close proximity to the alignments which could be significantly affected. OLC-002 and OLC-003 lead to potentially noticeable increases in the level of the current noise climate at communities with a relative high population count, including Old Rayne and Whiteford. Additionally, there are a number of areas allocated in the LDP with the potential to be affected.
  • All alignments are considered to have impacts on cultural heritage with major adverse impacts from alignments OLC-002, OLC-003 and OLC-006 where there are direct effects on Newton House GDL and the Inventory Historic Battlefield of the Battle of Harlaw, along with impacts on the setting of a number of scheduled monuments and Category A listed Pitcaple Castle.
  • OLC-002 passes directly through Pitcaple/Whiteford settlement and LDP allocated protected green space.
  • Additionally, moderate adverse impacts are expected on soil and geology from alignments OLC-001, OLC-002, OLC-003, OLC-004 and OLC-005 due to the presence of areas of contaminated land, a geological SSSI (Pitcaple and Legatesden Quarries), mineral resources and large areas of prime agricultural land.

Traffic/Transportation

  • All alignments could offer benefits across the Scheme Objectives and STAG criteria.
  • OLC-002, OLC-002b and OLC-003 impact on established core paths and would require management of motorised/non-motorised user interaction.
  • OLC-001 and OLC-004 make use of the existing A96 which fits with local policy to make use of existing infrastructure and a public desire to use the existing route where possible. However, an offline alignment would also allow the existing A96 to be used as a local connector road or as a shared NMU facility.
  • There may be public concern for loss of agricultural land impacted by offline options OLC-002, OLC-003, OLC-005, OLC-006, OLC-007) and proximity to the settlement at Whiteford (OLC-003, OLC-002).

Deselected Alignments

Alignments OLC-001, OLC-002, OLC-003, OLC-005 and OLC-006 perform the most poorly due to a combination of the impacts described.

Selected Alignments

Alignment OLC-004 to the north of Pitcaple and Alignment OLC-007 to the south of the Aberdeen to Inverness Railway were concluded to be the two better performing First Fix Alignments from within Corridor Option OLC to be progressed to Second Fix Alignment Development. However, at Second Fix Alignment development the OLC-007 alignment would need to be amended to avoid the private properties.

Corridor Option OLI Alignment Assessments

Corridor Option

First Fix Alignments

OLI - 2km wide corridor (1km each side of the existing A96 centre line) between the at grade roundabout at Port Elphinstone and terminating at Milton of Inveramsay.

There is one main alignment within the Corridor which is an online improvement of the existing A96 through Inverurie. There are two short link alignments to the west and east of Inverurie

There is only one main First Fix Alignment within the OLI Corridor Option (OLI-001) since this is an online improvement of the existing A96 which runs from Inveramsay to Port Elphinstone through Inverurie (on the line of the existing A96). There are two short link sections to the west (OLI-002) and east (OLI-003) of Inverurie. 

Engineering

  • The main engineering challenge associated with the First Fix Alignment OLI-001 is the existing development and property constraints within Inverurie. Immediately south of the Blackhall Roundabout existing residential property is adjacent to the existing A96 boundary fence, giving an available width between fence lines of approximately 21m. The minimum dual carriageway cross section required is 26.1m, resulting in a Major Adverse impact on the properties adjacent to the existing A96.
  • A significant structure would be required on First Fix Alignment OLI-001 to cross the River Don and the Upperboat Bridge over the existing A96 if the existing Don Crossing could not be extended.  This would require demolition of the existing structure.
  • Alignment OLI-002 requires a significant structure to cross the Aberdeen to Inverness Railway, River Urie, its flood plain and a local road. This structure would be approximately 650m total length.

Environment

  • All alignments have significant effects on people and communities due to the proximity to properties, businesses and community facilities. In particular, all routes have a major adverse impact upon properties bounding the existing A96. South of Blackhall roundabout, the proposed road is wider than the available corridor.
  • Alignment OLI-001 will widen the existing carriageway through Inverurie and is expected to have significant visual impacts on a large number of receptors within close proximity to the A96. 
  • Alignment OLI-002 is also expected to have major adverse impacts on landscape character from substantial earthworks, two crossings of the River Urie and direct impacts upon the Battle of Harlaw site.
  • Impacts on the water environment are considered to be major adverse from alignment OLI-002 where it crosses extensive floodplain of the River Urie and moderate adverse for the crossing of the River Don floodplain by alignment OLI-001. Prime agricultural land is located along the route of both OLI-001 and OLI-002.
  • Alignments OLI-001 and OLI-003 are considered to have major adverse impacts on noise and air quality due to the proximity of the widened road to a large number of receptors.
  • Major adverse impacts on cultural heritage are expected from alignment OLI-002 where it runs through the Inventory Historic Battlefield of the Battle of Harlaw.
  • Land allocated in the LDP is considered to be adversely affected from alignments OLI-001 and OLI-003 where they pass through the settlements of Inverurie and Port Elphinstone and the Crichie development.

Traffic/Transportation

  • Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) data suggests that a significant volume of A96 traffic is generated from areas to the north of Inverurie and must route through the town to access the A96. This traffic joins the A96 at Blackhall and Port Elphinstone Roundabouts and generates peak period congestion and delay.
  • To maintain adequate access to and from Inverurie, these junctions would require to be replaced by Grade Separated Junctions if the First Fix Alignment option OLI- 001 is progressed to Second Fix Alignment development. However, due to the existing development constraints at Blackhall Roundabout a grade separated junction at the current location would have a major impact on surrounding properties.

Deselected /Selected Alignments

It was concluded that additional work would need to be undertaken to determine the feasibility of progressing an online improvement (OLI-001) of the existing A96 through Inverurie prior to Second Fix Alignment development. The additional work is summarised in Appendix C.

Do Minimum Scenario

Under the terms of the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the EIRs (information not held), the Scottish Government is not required to provide information which it does not have.  The Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested as the route options were not assessed against the Do Minimum Scenario.  The Do Minimum Scenario will be developed as part of the DMRB Stage 2 route option assessment.

This exception is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. While we recognise that there may be some public interest in information about the assessment of the route options against the Do Minimum Scenario we cannot provide information which we do not hold.

Appendix A - Corridor Option OLC – Plans and Assessment tables

Issued by disk

Appendix B - Corridor Option OLI – Plans and Assessment tables

Issued by disk

Appendix C – Online at Inverurie – Dualling Feasibility and Apprasial

Issued by disk

 

Due to the size of the files we are unable to upload the documents referred to as Appendix A, B and C "Issued by disk".
If you wish to consider, please contact us at the address below and we will be happy to provide. 
 
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