Dismay and fear hover over owners and occupiers of more than 60 postal addresses in and around Dalguise. They face a potentially devastating impact upon their lives and their property values from the pending decision about the exact route to be taken during the A9 dualling of the section between Tay Bridge and Ballinluig.
Transport Scotland is presently considering an off-line, ‘alternative corridor’. This is shown here with the strong dark line on the graphic (the current, on-line A9 is represented by the dotted grey route) and is identified by locals as the “Black Option” (Jacobs’ Consultants’ Key Constraint Plans B1557620/2600/004 & 005).
A9 Tay black option4WebThis off-line, or black option, would carve  a route alternative to that of the existing, on-line section of the highway. It would drive through the narrow gap to the west of the railway line on the west bank of the Tay, up the B898.  It would then cross the river north of the existing Dalguise railway bridge. 
This black option (see also links below*) has survived the ‘sifting’ in the preliminary engineering assessment process and, according to Transport Scotland’s website, will now be part of the detailed Design Manual for Roads and Bridges assessment.
 
Local Alarm
An anxious appeal against the pursuit of the black option has been made in a letter to local politicians and to elected representatives at both Holyrood and Westminster.
One letter to Pete Wishart MP and to Scottish Minister John Swinney MSP points out that the plans so far do not make it clear :
•  how such a development would deal with the ever-present flooding risk in that part of the flood plain, or
• how a 200 metre corridor could actually be found on that side of the railway line whilst still providing local access for residents and landusers.

Residents stress the vital importance of swiftly resolving this planning threat hanging over the community. Whilst it remains a published planning option, it effectively paralyses the development of the community, the agricultural & business options and stalls the sale of properties

The major environmental concern is the inevitable increase in flood risk that it presents, both locally and downstream of the directly affected area.
In protesting correspondence it is pointed out that the re-routed dual carriageway would require to be built on a raised earth embankment west of the existing railway embankment.
In the floods of 1990 and 1993 this embankment created a bund which dammed the flood waters, consequently raising water levels to an unnaturally high level and contributing significantly to the impact of the flood.
The black option route would require a road embankment, high and wide enough to carry the proposed dual carriageway above flood levels. This would be many times wider than the railway embankment.
It is maintained by dissenters that this would significantly reduce the area and capacity of the flood plain, thereby increasing the flood water height, concentrating flows and leading to more catastrophic flood events both locally and downstream.
Locals recall that during the 1990 flood the railway embankment at Dalmarnock eventually failed totally, leaving unsupported rail tracks suspended in mid air.

Tight Knit Community
Both Inchmagrannachan and Dalguise are very old established communities which appear on Pont’s map from the 1580s.
This settlement pattern is shown on Roy’s map of 1747 and is identical to the various small communities living off the B898 today. 
Dalguise HallWebBy 21st century standards it exemplifies a relatively tight-knit, harmonious and successful community in Highland Perthshire which is a mixture of incomers and locals, some of whom are still farming and working their historic family land.
It would be inevitable that many of these would be threatened by the black option with either compulsory purchase and demolition, or restrictions to access and noise/environmental impacts.
One resident points out that a property, directly in the middle of the black option route, is Dalguise village hall (pictured).
She said: “More than symbolic, this represents all that is best about our small community. It is the glue which bonds our dispersed neighbourhood together, we meet there regularly for community events and the hall committee is never short of volunteers. Through successful fundraising, the hall has recently been renovated. 
“There is no doubt in my mind that moving this section of the A9 onto the B898 would destroy the communities of Inchmagrannachan and Dalguise.”

Eliminating Uncertainty Is ‘Vital’
Sam Scott, of Inch Cottage, told Comment: “At the community council meeting on 11 November we were reassured by Andy Mackay, the representative for Jacobs (the consultants for the dualling section north of the Tay crossing), that this proposal was the least likely. 
“This was for numerous reasons that only seemed to be understood by ‘those in the know’ ie the consultants and Transport Scotland themselves.”
Sam stressed that the black option shown on the consultants’ documents illustrates that they are covering all bases. “But it has a devastating effect on the short and long term conditions for people, land, property and businesses,” he said. “In other words it imposes a planning blight, no matter how long the timescale.”
For fragile areas impacted by this dualling north of the highland line it it is being urgently stressed that alternative on-line and off-line proposals are dealt with within an acceptable time frame that is not solely for the benefit of Transport Scotland and its consultants, but for the benefit of the communities directly affected
Some residents are calling for the vigorous lobbying of all parties concerned to have such a timescale written into the brief that is given to consultants by Transport Scotland.

(Locals) maintain that there ought to be a planning assumption to remain with the existing route of the A9 unless the engineering constraints against it are overwhelmingly difficult. They are sceptical that this is the case with the black option

Severe Impact of the ‘Pending’ Status
The Dalguise locals acknowledge that the A9 consultation process for the sections from Perth to Birnam has, so far, been highly professional, with good community engagement.
In their appeal to the politicians, however, they stress the vital importance of resolving this planning threat hanging over the community. “Whilst it remains a published planning option, it effectively paralyses the development of our community and even the sale of our houses,” said  one of them .
They understand that A9 dualling is a hugely complex national project and that, in some cases, there may be engineering and economic reasons why alternative routes have to be considered. 
They also understand that it is sometimes easier and cheaper to build new roads than upgrade existing sections, and that this may be the reason driving this black option.
They maintain that there ought to be a planning assumption to remain with the existing route of the A9 unless the engineering constraints against it are overwhelmingly difficult. They are sceptical that this is the case on with the black option.
Jake Maclean of Upper Woodinch, Dalguise, in a letter to John Swinney MSP on 18 November, reasoned: “The apparently ‘easy’ (off-line) route may provide a lazy solution to a tricky engineering conundrum but it is rarely the right solution. The B898 ‘Black Option’  was studied in detail in (around) 1972 when the ‘New A9’ section between Dunkeld and Ballinluig was surveyed and designed.
“In fact, site investigations were carried out along that potential route because of perceived difficulties in the available corridor width on the (eventually selected) route east of the river.
“In the event, good judgement was used and sound engineering science was applied. A short section of railway was tunnelled, the Jubilee Bridge was built, the River Tay was locally diverted to the west (opposite Dalmarnock), and the road was built immediately east of the river.
“I am unaware of any insurmountable problems associated with that route during construction, or indeed in the intervening 40 years.”
Locals note that the small, adjacent communities in Dowally, Guay and Kindallachan on the other side of the river were badly affected by the previous A9 upgrade and re-routing some 30 years ago. They now fear an ‘unnecessary act of national vandalism’ this time round would cut the heart out of the communities on their side of the Tay valley.
Sam Scott added: “It is in the interests of our local politicians to listen to our concerns for, at the end of the day, we all vote them in - and we also have the voting power to vote them out.” 
 
* http://www.transportscotland.gov.uk/files/A9_PES_SINGLE_FINAL_ARTWORK_300513.pdf
http://www.transportscotland.gov.uk/files/A9%20Dualling%20Sifting%20Options%2001-07.pdf

 

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