Publication - FOI/EIR release

Revised Elgin dualling proposals: EIR release

Published: 27 Apr 2018
Information request and response under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004.
Published:
27 Apr 2018
Revised Elgin dualling proposals: EIR release

FOI reference: FOI/18/01025
Date received: 29 March 2018
Date responded: 18 April 2018

Information requested

On 28th of February, during a local presentation of the revised Elgin dualing proposals, I asked SWECO consultants, who are your agents, to explain their changes to the northern and southern routes. For over an hour I tried to elicit concise answers with little success. I assume, as I never received straight answers, that all of the following areas have been altered in accordance with Transport Scotland Scheme Objectives (TSSOs)? Therefore, each of these route alterations requires two answers. Firstly, which TSSOs did the previous route not satisfy and secondly, your detailed reasons why. The routes in question are:

Route B1. The revised route is longer and now decimates Burgie Wood. The sole reply I received that evening was that it had been revised 'due to business interests'. Which TSSO does this answer cover? Moreover, decimating this wood is contrary to Scottish Planning Policy Para 21, as stated in my report, sent to you on 5 August 2017.

Route P3. The revised route now moves further into a SEPA-defined flood plain.

Route P3 Junction. Now moved further east with a longer link road into Elgin. The new link road offers no connectivity to proposed housing to the south of Elgin, therefore which TSSOs are being invoked here and where is the improvement? Relocated P4 junction with new P4 link road to G2 Junction. This revised solution beggars belief. The obvious revision would be to have a raised junction to the south of Lhanbryde, incorporating the functions of A96 intersection; railway bridge and P4 connection.

Costings and Geology surveys. No costings or geology surveys have been carried out for any of these sub-routes to the north and south of Elgin, but SWECO advised me that a final route would be announced by the end of 2018. How can a final route be chosen when costings and geological data are absent?

Pre-August 2017 Initial Routes around Elgin. What TSSOs were used to arbitrarily draw these various sub-routes around Elgin; again when no costings or geology data was available?'

Response

Transport Scotland has interpreted your request as forming the following questions:

1. I assume that all of the following areas have been altered in accordance with Transport Scotland Scheme Objectives (TSSOs)? Therefore, each of these route alterations requires two answers. Firstly, which TSSOs did the previous route not satisfy and secondly, your detailed reasons why.

2. [Route B1]… Which TSSO does this answer cover?

3. [Route P3]… which TSSOs are being invoked here and where is the improvement?

4. How can a final route be chosen when costings and geological data are absent?

5. What TSSOs were used to arbitrarily draw these various sub-routes around Elgin; again when no costings or geology data was available?

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.

In response to the above queries under the EIRs, Transport Scotland provides the following:

1. While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this Transport Scotland does not hold the information you have requested. Therefore we are refusing your request under the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the EIRs.

Under the terms of the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the EIRs (information not held), Transport Scotland is not required to provide information which it does not have. Transport Scotland does not have the information you have requested because it does not use individual scheme objectives to justify individual route options design development decisions. Transport Scotland therefore does not hold documented information relating to the scheme objectives and their application to the route options design development examples you have raised.

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 details of the route options design development, clearly we cannot provide information which we do not hold.

2. While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this Transport Scotland does not hold the information you have requested. Therefore we are refusing your request under the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the EIRs.

Under the terms of the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the EIRs (information not held), Transport Scotland is not required to provide information which it does not have. Transport Scotland does not have the information you have requested because it does not use individual scheme objectives to justify individual route options design development decisions. Transport Scotland therefore does not hold documented information relating to the scheme objectives and their application to the route options design development examples you have raised.

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 details of the route options design development, clearly we cannot provide information which we do not hold.

3. In relation to part of your query, I can confirm that the amended position of the Route P3 Junction is preferred as the junction has been moved to higher ground to minimise flood effects, less woodland would be lost and it has a more direct connection to Elgin, and this outlines the improvement achieved through this change.

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this Transport Scotland does not hold some of the information you have requested in question 3, namely "what TSSO is being invoked here?". Therefore we are refusing your request under the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the EIRs.

Under the terms of the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the EIRs (information not held), Transport Scotland is not required to provide information which it does not have. Transport Scotland does not have the information you have requested because Transport Scotland does not use individual scheme objectives to justify individual route options design development decisions. Transport Scotland therefore does not hold documented information relating to the scheme objectives and their application to the route options design development examples you have raised.

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 details of the scheme objectives, clearly we cannot provide information which we do not hold.

4. While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this Transport Scotland does not hold the information you have requested. Therefore we are refusing your request under the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the EIRs.

Under the terms of the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the EIRs (information not held), Transport Scotland is not required to provide information which it does not have. Transport Scotland does not have the information you have requested because your request appears to seek opinion rather than documented information. Transport Scotland does not hold documented information relating to this opinion, however it is noted that costs and geological data will be considered as part of the DMRB Stage 2 Assessment and this will be used to inform the selection of the preferred option by the end of 2018.

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 route options, clearly we cannot provide information which we do not hold.

5. While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this Transport Scotland does not hold the information you have requested. Therefore we are refusing your request under the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the EIRs.

Under the terms of the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the EIRs (information not held), Transport Scotland is not required to provide information which it does not have. Transport Scotland does not have the information you have requested because Transport Scotland does not use individual scheme objectives to justify individual route options design development decisions. Transport Scotland therefore does not hold documented information relating to the scheme objectives and their application to the route options design development examples you have raised.

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 details of the route options design development, clearly we cannot provide information which we do not hold.

Notwithstanding the above outcomes of your EIR request, I note your interest in the A96 Dualling Hardmuir to Fochabers scheme. In order to be of some assistance, I note the following which may address some of the wider issues that you raised in your request.

Transport Scotland carries out a rigorous assessment process to establish the preferred option for a trunk road project. The preparation and development of trunk road projects follows the project assessment process set out in the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB). This is a three-stage assessment process that covers engineering, environmental, traffic and economic considerations.

Throughout this assessment process, Transport Scotland consults with a diverse range of stakeholders, local communities and interested parties, including heritage, environmental and Non-Motorised User (NMU) groups such as pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians.

The options assessment process takes into account the scheme objectives and the Scottish Government's five appraisal criteria, namely; environment, safety, economy, integration and accessibility and social inclusion.

Our initial DMRB Stage 2 Assessment work showed that southerly options, including those in the Pluscarden area, performed poorly when they were assessed against the Transport Scotland Scheme Objectives. These options have been ruled out as a result of this initial assessment and have been removed from further consideration. This early assessment stage ensured that all options under consideration met the stated objectives for the scheme and as a result, all of the remaining route options, i.e. route options published in June 2017, therefore meet the Transport Scotland Scheme Objectives.

Since June 2017 Transport Scotland and Mott MacDonald Sweco (MMS) have been progressing the DMRB Stage 2 Assessment, by developing the route option design work and this was presented at the Route Options – Design Update Public Drop-In sessions in February/March 2018. This work developed the option designs, following feedback received since the June 2017 Public Consultation. This was not as a result of non-compliance with the Transport Scotland Scheme Objectives.

The route options will be further developed and assessed in terms of Engineering, Environment, Traffic and Economics in line with the requirements of the DMRB. This assessment is therefore different to the initial work outlined above which ruled out options that did not meet the published scheme objectives. All of the options being assessed using the DMRB criteria meet the scheme objectives as outlined above. In response to your detailed queries in respect the key changes to route options since June 2017, we respond in turn as follows:

The amended alignment of Route B1 is preferred due to the reduced impacts on Burgie Eventing Centre and its reduced overall disruption to agriculture. Burgie Wood is designated as Ancient Woodland (Long established of plantation origin) and with respect of Scottish Planning Policy, new woodland and plant native trees would be proposed in association with the scheme as part of the Environmental mitigation, should Route B1 be taken forward as the preferred option.

The amended alignment of Route P3 is preferred principally due to its reduced local access impacts, its reduced direct effects on planning consents and its alignment which is closer to the existing transport corridor. It also moves the route into areas of lower flood risk.

As noted above, the amended position of the Route P3 Junction is preferred as the junction has been moved to higher ground to minimise flood effects, less woodland would be lost and it has a more direct connection to Elgin. Access to housing south of Elgin would be provided by the junction on the Route P3 intersection with the A941.

The amended junction location for P4 along with the new link road, is preferred principally due to its reduced impact on the setting of Coxton Tower scheduled monument and listed building. It also has a reduced impact on the B9103. Cost estimates will be developed and used in the economic assessment of the route options as part of the route options assessment process.

Desktop analysis of historical data, supplemented by site walkover surveys have been used to contribute to the Engineering Assessment of all route options. Geology and soil conditions will also be assessed for all route options and part of the Environment Assessment in selecting of a preferred option in accordance with DMRB Stage 2 Process. As part of the route options assessment process Transport Scotland will prepare a DMRB Stage 2 Scheme Assessment Report which will identify the factors taken into account in choosing alternative route options and identify the environmental, engineering, economic and traffic advantages, disadvantages and constraints associated with those route options. This report will be completed and published once a preferred option has been announced.

The Pre-August 2017 initial Routes around Elgin were developed as outlined above.

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