CAMPAIGNERS have slammed Scotland’s transport minister over her response to a petition calling for a rethink of controversial plans to upgrade the A82 along Loch Lomondside.

Transport Scotland is planning to carry out major improvements to the existing road between Tarbet and Inverarnan.

Two local groups – the Friends of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and the Helensburgh and District Access Trust (HADAT) – are urging the government body to properly consider building a ‘high road’, further up the hillside, saying that upgrading the A82 along the lochside will harm the environment in the National Park and will not benefit people living in the area.

In a petition to a powerful Scottish Parliament committee, the two groups ask the Scottish Government to “reconsider the process for selecting the preferred option for the planned upgrade of the A82 between Tarbet and Inverarnan”.

Helensburgh Advertiser: A short stretch of the A82 has already been upgraded north of Tarbet - but plans for a more comprehensive upgrade have been slammed by conservation and access charitiesA short stretch of the A82 has already been upgraded north of Tarbet - but plans for a more comprehensive upgrade have been slammed by conservation and access charities (Image: John Urquhart)

Fiona Hyslop told MSPs that the ‘high road’ option has “rightly been discounted from further consideration” and that the Scottish Government “does not consider this option to be a viable alternative to the preferred route”.

But Helensburgh resident John Urquhart, who chairs both the Friends and HADAT, says Ms Hyslop’s view – laid out in a letter to the Scottish Parliament’s citizen participation and public petitions committee – is a “predictable regurgitation of the position that Transport Scotland has done everything correctly”.

Concern about the environmental impact of the government’s preferred ‘low road’ solution have also been raised by the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority.

Ms Hyslop told the committee: “The Scottish Government considers that a STAG-compliant assessment has already been completed in line with the appropriate guidance and is therefore not willing to carry out a re-appraisal of the preferred route option for the upgrade to the A82 between Tarbet and Inverarnan.

Helensburgh Advertiser: Transport minister Fiona Hyslop said the Scottish Government is not willing to re-examine its preferred option for upgrading the A82Transport minister Fiona Hyslop said the Scottish Government is not willing to re-examine its preferred option for upgrading the A82

“This would unnecessarily repeat work already carried out resulting in considerable delay and additional cost that would not provide any value to the Scottish taxpayer.

“The proposal does not acknowledge that the existing A82 would require to remain in place to provide continued access to land, property and tourist facilities and therefore the existing substandard route would require to continue to operate without vital improvements to address road safety and resilience issues.”

Ms Hyslop also says the progress of the scheme will depend on the nature of comments received when the formal plans go out to public consultation, and on whether a public local inquiry (PLI) may be needed to consider any objections.

Responding to the transport minister’s comments, Mr Urquhart said: “Fiona Hyslop’s letter is a predictable regurgitation of the position that TfS has done everything correctly. The truth is they haven’t.

Helensburgh Advertiser: John Urquhart says the planned A82 upgrade will cause major damage to the environment on the banks of Loch LomondJohn Urquhart says the planned A82 upgrade will cause major damage to the environment on the banks of Loch Lomond (Image: John Urquhart)

"Her admission of the possibility of a public local enquiry is at least a step in the right direction.

“Consultation on both projects has been woefully inadequate. The special qualities of the landscape are not being recognised, nature and natural processes given scant attention or ignored and golden opportunities to improve life for residents, visitors and travellers squandered.

“The low road solution for the A82 from Tarbet to Inverarnan will destroy large areas of irreplaceable Atlantic oakwood forest and blight eight miles of Loch Lomond’s bonnie banks with tarmac, concrete, steel and roaring, polluting traffic.

“The villages of Tarbet and Ardlui will be forever sentenced to the constant din and dust of six million vehicles annually passing within a few feet of front doors, pavements and primary school.

Helensburgh Advertiser: John Urquhart chairs both the Friends of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and the Helensburgh and District Access TrustJohn Urquhart chairs both the Friends of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and the Helensburgh and District Access Trust (Image: Contributed)

“The lack of ambition and imagination of the public bodies involved is truly shocking and it is beyond understanding how such a disastrous solution on the A82 could ever have been deemed optimal when the 1980s example of the Pass of Killiecrankie was there, plain for all to see.

"In those days it seems we had politicians and public servants who had a better grasp of what makes sense.

“They put the new A9 high above the existing road and the railway line, thus freeing the old road for use by local traffic and for cyclists and walkers to safely enjoy the scenic splendour of the River Garry, its historic gorge and ancient woodland - all free from traffic noise.

“Why can’t we do the same with the A82 and save those precious eight miles of loch shore?”

Helensburgh Advertiser: A view of Loch Lomond set to be significantly altered under Transport Scotland's A82 upgrade plansA view of Loch Lomond set to be significantly altered under Transport Scotland's A82 upgrade plans (Image: John Urquhart)

Responding to Mr Urquhart's comments, a Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “As with all improvements to the trunk road we are following a rigorous assessment process to establish the design of the A82 Tarbet to Inverarnan scheme.

“The options appraisal process for the scheme was undertaken in a manner underpinned by the principles of Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance and the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB).

“We fully understand people feel strongly about this route and this is why maintaining the natural beauty of this key lifeline link is an integral part of the design to ensure we deliver the right scheme and keep impacts on the environment to the absolute minimum. 

"As with all our major projects, engagement with local communities and other stakeholders is also at the heart of scheme development.  This will ensure feedback received is taken into account as we develop our plans.

“While there is still a lot of development work to be carried out, which is being informed by our enhanced understanding of the specific complexities associated with improving this iconic route, we continue to push forward the preparation stages.”