Flyover before housing

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CHAIRMAN of Mearns Community Council, David Nelson, has declared that the community council will oppose all major housing developments in Laurencekirk - until there is a grade-separated junction on the A90.

At the October meeting of the council, eyebrows were raised when members voted 8-3 in favour of opposing a plan by Scotia Homes for a 77-house development at the south end of Laurencekirk.

Scotia want to develop farmland to the south of the High Street, adjacent to the Gaugers Burn and proposed 77 residential homes together with eight commercial units.

In October, community councillors said they were unhappy with the fact that there was no commercial land left in Laurencekirk, but the main reason for their opposition was their policy of not supporting any major development until there is grade-separation.

Speaking this week, Mr Nelson accepted that some elected councillors seemed perplexed by the stance taken by the community council.

“This has been our standpoint all along. We do not want any major development, that is over 50 houses unless the roads infrastructure is sorted out first.

“That is what we made clear at our last meeting. Our fundamental concern is safety at both junctions into Laurencekirk, north and south as well as the roads insfrastructure through the town itself.

“We want to see a link road built to the west of the town to serve the proposed new housing developments as well as take pressure off the High Street.

“We have not seen any detailed plans for what Scotia are proposing, but that area was originally scheduled for industrial development.

“Above all we will not support any major development without grade-separation first.”

Mr Nelson said that in principle this would mean the community council opposing any major development to the north of the town as detailed in the emerging local plan.

“We must remember that 100 plus houses have already been approved at the bottom of Blackiemuir Avenue and we are of the opinion that the can’t stand any more.

“The transport minister has said housing will come first before grade-separation but we do not accept that.

“It would mean that in the intervening period there would be double or treble the use of the junction and double or treble the accident risk.

“It is unacceptable that grade-separation cannot be put in place before there is any major development in our community.

“We will continue to lobby for grade-separation, as MSPs are doing at the moment.

“If this means non-compliance with requests for planning permission then so be it. What else can we do?”

Mr Nelson accepted that Aberdeenshire Council can do what it likes regardless of the position of the community council, but he said they had a duty to let councillors know how they feel.

“We are not against small developments, but we have declared that we will oppose anything over 50 houses.”

Mr Nelson has welcomed the fact that Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson has been called to appear before the petitions committee of parliament to explain his stance on a flyover at Laurencekirk.

The minister has refused to consider grade-separation, while agreeing to build flyovers in the Stirling area where the accident rate is better than at Laurencekirk.

“I know the government are carrying out all sorts of surveys on speed, traffic flow etc, but I feel our junction is probably busier than any of those where flyovers have been approved.

“The A90/A937 junction is not easy at any time, but it is even more difficult to negotiate in bad weather.

“I know of some people who refuse to use it and make a big detour to use Northwaterbridge.”

Mr Nelson expects the junction to figure large in the forthcoming Scottish Parliament election campaign, with all the candidates aware that their stance could be either a vote winner or loser.

“I feel it is pie in the sky to expect developers to stump up for a flyover before they have built any houses. The government should build a flyover and if necessary claim money back from developers later.”