In 2017, a partnership between Transport Scotland and the Birnam to Ballinluig A9 Community Group initiated a co-creative process to identify the community’s preferred route. The process was open to everyone, and the community group has been involved in each stage.
From January 2018, through a five stage co-creative process the community, including children and young people, suggested ideas for the A9 dualling and associated infrastructure, and the most popular of these ideas, as voted for by the community, were used to create a short-list of four ‘Whole Route Options’. In the final stage, Stage 5, members of the public were invited to rank the four short-listed routes in order of preference and to vote for one of three related junction options at Birnam/Murthly Castle.
The four whole route options selected for the final voting were:
- three ‘online’ routes (Routes A, B and D) which would follow the line of the existing A9 (but partly at lower level involving a cut and cover tunnel or underpass) with junctions at Dunkeld, Dalguise and the Hermitage, and the retention of the Dunkeld & Birnam railway station
- one ‘offline’ route (Route C) which consisted of a 2.8km tunnel to the west of the existing A9 with junctions at Dalguise and the Hermitage, and the retention of the Dunkeld & Birnam station.
The online options had varying lengths of tunnel with Route A incorporating a 1.5km tunnel, Route B a 450m tunnel and Route D an underpass of up to 150m.
To complete the whole route, three options for junctions at the Birnam and Murthly Castle end of this section were also offered:
- a restricted movement grade-separated junction at Birnam
- a full movement grade-separated junction adjacent to the current access at Murthly Castle
- or a roundabout at Birnam.
Over the voting period, between 23 June and 2 July 2018, 720 people voted online or submitted voting cards. Voting was open to the public and the number of votes received represented a very strong turnout relative to the size of the community. The rankings were aggregated into total scores for each of the four short-listed routes to determine the preferred route.
The online route (Route A) incorporating a 1.5km tunnel commencing in the area of the existing junction of the A9 with the B867 and Perth Road at Birnam and terminating in the area of the existing junction with the A923 and A822 at Little Dunkeld (See diagram, below) came out on top with the highest score, attracting 37.4% of the total of all scores across the four routes and also attracting 45% of the first place votes recorded.
Routes B, C and D attracted 23%, 22.3% and 17.3% of the total of all scores respectively. The full voting figures and scores can be found in the Stage 5 Ranking Summary Report, link included below.
To complete the whole route, voters expressed a clear preference to incorporate a full movement grade-separated junction at Murthly Castle, to the south of Birnam, to replace the existing Birnam junction. This option attracted 68% of the votes for junctions compatible with that route.
The community’s preferred route was announced on 13 August 2018.
Following the result of the vote, further work is needed before a decision can be taken by the Scottish Ministers on the preferred option for the project and this work is currently ongoing. The design will be worked up by Transport Scotland to the same level of detail as is required for all major trunk road projects to allow the Scottish Ministers to make an informed decision and with the confidence that it can be delivered successfully through the planning process.
More detailed information about key aspects such as buildability, noise and other environmental impacts, traffic and economic impacts will be investigated to ensure a robust and deliverable design is identified.
During this period Transport Scotland will be consulting with stakeholders and people who may be directly affected by the community’s preferred option as chosen at the Big Decide.
In Autumn 2016, Transport Scotland agreed to engage in a Co-creative Process with the Dunkeld and Birnam Community. The purpose of this process is to bring skills, experience and local knowledge together to reach a solution with the community.
As background, the usual assessment process for trunk road projects is being followed for this project.
Between 2012 and 2014 we completed a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to inform, at a corridor level, where dualling should take place and some key environmental themes or principles we would follow. The SEA helped inform the division of the programme into a series of projects to help us manage planning issues at a local level.
After the SEA we moved to project level assessment work, set out in the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB). This involves a more localised assessment of constraints and opportunities and the production of route options and assessment of their impacts.
In this area, as with the other A9 projects, we have been undertaking DMRB Stage 2 (route options) assessments. Some of that work will now be revisited as part of the co-creative process, taking into account community and programme objectives. In order to support the process, and as part of the DMRB work done to date, we have produced our assessment of the baseline (existing) conditions in the local area. This covers the usual DMRB topics.
As part of the initial community led phases a number of questions about the level of assessment to be eventually undertaken have been raised. At the end of the process, once we have a preferred option, we'll produce an Environmental Statement (ES) which assesses the preferred option against a range of topic areas. To help illustrate the level of detail that will eventually be produced, see the A9 Luncarty to Birnam ES. This document is typical of those produced for trunk road, and other developments.