Thirty-year traffic jam to be eased as bypass finally gets go-ahead

THE way has finally been cleared for construction work to begin on one of the most long-awaited transport improvement projects in Scotland - the 28-mile Aberdeen bypass.

The final legal obstacle to the new route, which will end daily gridlock misery for thousands of motorists, was removed when Court of Session judge Lord Tyre threw out an appeal by protesters, whose legal challenge had delayed the 400 million Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR) by six months.

Local politicians and business leaders hailed yesterday's court judgment as a "red letter day" for the North-east of Scotland.

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Transport minister Keith Brown said: "The Scottish Government remain totally committed to the AWPR being completed as soon as possible and we are pleased we can now move forward with this project, which is vital to the future prosperity of the North-east and Scotland as a whole."

A city bypass was first mooted as the solution to the gridlock gripping Europe's oil capital more than 30 years ago. Commuters currently have to cross the River Dee, the main entrance to the city, on a 16th-century bridge that was widened in 1840 to allow horse-drawn carriages to pass each other.

The Scottish Government approved plans for the new road in December 2009, but work on the scheme had to be put on hold after Road Sense, a protest group formed to oppose the bypass, lodged an appeal at the Court of Session, claiming that the public inquiry held in 2008 into the route had been flawed as it had been given an unreasonably narrow remit.

Lord Tyre, however, rejected the appeal on the grounds that there had been sufficient opportunity for public representations before the inquiry.

Last night, Road Sense said it would be meeting at the weekend to consider further legal action. But Tom Smith, chairman of ACSEF, the local economic forum, urged the protesters to abandon any attempt to appeal against Lord Tyre's ruling.

He said: "The AWPR is the most pivotal economic development project for this region - our prosperity and jobs depend on it. The number-one barrier to growth for our business community is our poor transport infrastructure and connectivity.

"If we want companies to remain here and be attracted here, we must have a transport system that eases our current gridlock.

"We would urge the very small opposition group to accept the majority views of the region, the decision of government ministers and now the ruling of the Court of Session and drop any plans for appeal."

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Road Sense chairman William Walton said he was "disappointed but not surprised" at the Court of Session ruling.He told The Scotsman that members of the protest group would be studying the judgment in detail with their lawyers over the next few days and discussing the possibility of an appeal.

But bankrolling a further legal challenge could be a barrier. Mr Walton revealed the court action had already cost the protest group close to 100,000. He said: "Every penny we spend on a court case comes from our members, and if our members lose the appetite, they may say that now is the time to stop."