Publication - FOI/EIR release

A96 dualling East of Huntly to Aberdeen - violet and orange route questions: EIR release

Published: 26 Sep 2019

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

Published:
26 Sep 2019
A96 dualling East of Huntly to Aberdeen - violet and orange route questions: EIR release
FOI reference: FOI/19/02013
Date received: 27 Aug 2019
Date responded: 24 Sep 2019
Information requested

You asked for:

“……….please could you supply me with all and any records and data arising from all and any ‘on the ground’ environmental surveys on the ‘violet’ and ‘orange’ route options of the A96 dualling East of Huntly to Aberdeen project carried out between October 2018 and May 2019, and between June 2019 and August 2019.

……..please could you supply me with the total numbers of landowners on both the ‘violet’ and ‘orange’ route options of the A96 dualling East of Huntly to Aberdeen project and the proportion of those landowners who have met with Transport Scotland and/or their Contractors and/or their subcontractors to discuss farm fragmentation, impact and environmental effects.

…….with regards to the ‘violet’ and ‘orange’ route options of the A96 dualling East of Huntly to Aberdeen project, please could you provide me with the number, site/location and nature of ‘on the ground/in the field’ environmental surveys that have been out so far or will be carried out prior to the selection of the preferred option and the qualifications of those individuals carrying out the work.”

Response

As all of 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.

Please find below responses to each of the requests for information you made in your email.

“……….please could you supply me with all and any records and data arising from all and any ‘on the ground’ environmental surveys on the ‘violet’ and ‘orange’ route options of the A96 dualling East of Huntly to Aberdeen project carried out between October 2018 and May 2019, and between June 2019 and August 2019.”

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, at this juncture of the A96 Dualling East of Huntly to Aberdeen Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB) Stage 2 route options assessment, the environmental assessment of the orange and violet routes is ongoing, therefore with regard to your request for all and any records and data arising from all and any ‘on the ground’ environmental surveys on the ‘violet’ and ‘orange’ route options of the A96 dualling East of Huntly to Aberdeen project carried out between October 2018 and May 2019, and between June 2019 and August 2019 an exception under regulation 10(4)(d) of the EIRs (unfinished or incomplete information) applies to the information you have requested because it is material which is still in the course of completion. The environmental assessment, which includes environmental surveys, of each of the options under consideration on the A96 Dualling East of Huntly to Aberdeen scheme is currently on-going to inform the preferred route option decision expected to be announced and reported in a DMRB Stage 2 Scheme Assessment Report later this year, however this may slip into next year given the level of feedback received following the consultation events held in May 2019.

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. We recognise that there is some public interest in release as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and this will be met by the release of the DMRB Stage 2 Scheme Assessment Report which will contain details of the environmental assessment of each option, including the environmental surveys. However, this is outweighed by the public interest in ensuring that unfinished or incomplete information which is still in being worked on is not disclosed when it might misinform the public.

“…..please could you supply me with the total numbers of landowners on both the ‘violet’ and ‘orange’ route options of the A96 dualling East of Huntly to Aberdeen project...”

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested in this part of your request. 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), 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 because the route options assessment process has not been completed. The route options under consideration are currently subject to on-going design development so the Scottish Government does not hold the total number of landowners on both route options.

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 the requested information, clearly we cannot provide information which we do not hold.

Further explanation
At this stage, 34 landowners have been identified on the violet route option and 19 landowners have been identified on the orange route option and it is estimated that we have established land ownership details for around 90% of the area covered by these route options.

In keeping with other sections of the A96 Dualling programme, a Landowner Station was set up at the Initial Route Options Public Exhibition for the A96 Dualling East of Huntly to Aberdeen scheme held in October 2018 and again at the Public Drop-In sessions in May 2019. The purpose of this was to allow landowners potentially affected by any of the route options to voluntarily provide their details and mark the boundary of their property/land so that we could make contact with them in the future where necessary. Their contact details were also added to a database so that they could be advised of any scheme updates such as notification of the Public Drop-In sessions in May 2019.

Since that time, I can advise that a great deal of proactive work has taken place to identify landowners who may not have attended any of the public exhibitions but where we had identified a requirement to access their land for the purposes of carrying out specific targeted environmental surveys as detailed above to collect data to use as part of the assessment process.

“…and the proportion of those landowners who have met with Transport Scotland and/or their Contractors and/or their subcontractors to discuss farm fragmentation, impact and environmental effects.”

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested in this part of your request. 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), 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 because as explained above we do not hold the total number of landowners on both options therefore we do not hold the proportion of landowners who have met with the project team to discuss farm fragmentation, impact and environmental effects.

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 the requested information, clearly we cannot provide information which we do not hold.

Further explanation
Consultation with directly affected property and landowners to consider the impact on, and mitigation for, land-use, business, access and environment effects will be carried out in more detail at DMRB Stage 3 to inform the Environmental Impact Assessment in accordance with the recognised and established procedures.

“…….with regards to the ‘violet’ and ‘orange’ route options of the A96 dualling East of Huntly to Aberdeen project, please could you provide me with the number, site/location and nature of ‘on the ground/in the field’ environmental surveys that have been out so far or will be carried out prior to the selection of the preferred option and the qualifications of those individuals carrying out the work.”

With regards to the violet and orange route options, a spreadsheet containing all environmental surveys that have been carried out to date and planned to be undertaken is attached. The personnel engaged in conducting the surveys have associated professional qualifications detailed on the spreadsheet.

About FOI
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Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
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Edinburgh
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