A9 Dualling Programme Strategic Environmental Assessment Non-Technical Summary

9. Landscape

SEA Challenges/ Opportunities

A9 dualling presents a number of landscape challenges and opportunities. Challenges include avoiding and minimising adverse effects on the special qualities of important landscape designations (including the Cairngorms National Park and National Scenic Areas) whilst at the same time enhancing the experience for drivers, visitors and tourists.

In terms of local landscape variety and a changing visual narrative, the A9 could be described as a world class tourist route where the road sits within, and is a recognised feature of, the changing landscapes along the route.

A9 dualling will inevitably have an effect on the landscape. For example, in areas where a second carriageway is introduced at a higher elevation than the existing carriageway, the change will potentially be more visible than in areas where the road is widened at the same elevation.

In areas where the road is screened from view, the effects of change will generally be less pronounced; however, in upland areas with little screening cover, change may be more visible.

The SEA does not provide a Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment, as these more detailed studies will be undertaken at later route alignment and detailed design stages.

However, a route-wide Landscape Review is underway to identify the range of landscape character areas along the corridor, consider potential opportunities in terms of key views from the road, and to inform the development of strategic landscape principles and landscape and visual design guidance for the A9.

Landscape Character

The A9 passes through some of most beautiful scenery in Scotland, including a number of distinct landscape character types from agricultural lowland landscapes north of Perth, through the wild moorlands of Drumochter, to the beauties of the Spey valley.

The Landscape Review has identified a range of 23 distinct landscape character areas along the route (Fig. 5), each with distinct features that give a unique character to the surrounding area.

Figure 7 A9 Landscape character range

Figure 7 A9 Landscape character range

The Landscape Review aims to define indicative sensitivities to dualling for each character area and to provide design guidance to work with the local character and to minimise adverse effects.

Views from the Road

The Landscape Review is working with Scottish Natural Heritage and the Cairngorms National Park Authority to identify a range of particularly impressive views along the A9. These will be considered in later route alignment studies as opportunity views, to inform the emerging Lay By and NMU Strategies.

The aim is to incorporate opportunity view locations into ongoing studies, such that the experience of travellers using the A9 is enhanced with improved opportunities to stop near these key views.

Views from the Road
Location Key View
Bogbain North over the Moray Firth
River Findhorn West along the river
Slochd South through the pass at the distant Cairngorm summits
Lay-by 149 west of Carrbridge Panoramic views south towards the Cairngorms
View of Cairngorms View ahead for southbound travellers
Loch Alvie South east over the Spey to the Cairngorm peaks
Dalraddy View over strath Spey to the Cairngorms
Loch Insh Insh Marshes and the hills beyond
Ruthven Spectacular view of Ruthven Barracks
Dalwhinnie Attractive views of the distillery
Drumochter Dramatic views north and south through the pass
Loch Garry South west from Dalnaspidal
Clunes/ Bruar Glen Errochty and Glen Garry
Blair Atholl Picture perfect view of the castle and policy woodlands
Killiecrankie West along Glen Garry
Faskally River Tummel at crossing
Pitlochry North over the town to Ben Vrackie
River Tay North over farmed strath
Dunkeld/Birnam View along pass

These opportunity view locations will inform the emerging Lay By Strategy, where the position and size of a lay-by site is considered in the context of providing facilities close to great views, linkages to nearby NMU routes and local consideration of pedestrian subway crossings to connect both sides of the road to the viewpoint, where appropriate.

SEA considers that the early incorporation of opportunity views, supported with guidance on enhanced lay bys, is a key enhancement measure, likely to present locally minor benefits, aggregating to a cumulatively moderate benefit at the route wide scale.

Figure 8 'Primary' views from the Road

Figure 8 'Primary' views from the Road

Cairngorms National Park

The A9 runs within the Cairngorms National Park, close to the south and western boundaries, and the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000 outlines the following key aims:

  1. To conserve and enhance the natural and cultural heritage of the area;
  2. To promote sustainable use of the natural resources of the area;
  3. To promote understanding and enjoyment (including enjoyment in the form of recreation) of the special qualities of the area by the public;
  4. To promote sustainable economic and social development of the area's communities.

The Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) have defined a series of 'special qualities' for the Park and it is important that they are respected by, and used to inform, A9 dualling designs and route alignment studies at the local level.

The National Parks Act also contains a requirement for public bodies to look for enhancement when carrying out activities in the Park, and CNPA advise that enhancement should be considered over the long term, not necessarily as an immediate benefit.

SEA considers that A9 dualling will help provide a range of enhancements for the local population, communities and businesses within the Park, in terms of road safety, operational flexibility and journey reliability. There will also be long-term improvements to road discharge water quality, and improvements in route permeability for mobile species. Recreational access and NMU crossing points will be made safer, all of which will be likely to have incremental enhancement benefits for the National Park.

The key issue is sympathetic design of the dualled route that works with immediate landscape features, reflects the changing landscape character within the Park, and provides additional opportunities to stop en-route and take advantage of key views.

Wildness and Dark Skies

CNPA Supplementary Planning Guidance describes the concept of Wildness as:

Wildness - The experience felt when in a wild landscape… …derived from the combination of four specific attributes - naturalness, ruggedness, remoteness and the lack of modern human artefacts.

CNPA describe the current A9 transport corridor as band C (low value) with respect to wildness, where the priority is to reduce or limit the impacts upon band A and B (higher value) areas.

In terms of noise and tranquillity, SEA recognises that traffic on the A9 does play a part in the experience of wildness (particularly with respect to the remoteness from roads aspect); however, any increase in traffic via A9 dualling is not expected to be sufficient enough to present a noticeable change over existing conditions.

Construction noise may be noticeable in some areas, depending on local conditions; however, SEA considers this a relatively short term issue, with temporary and reversible effects.

Much of the A9 is currently unlit and, in areas where dark skies are considered a valued feature of the landscape, additional lighting might impact upon areas valued as wild land (i.e. the introduction of lighting could impact upon perceived wildness).

SEA considers that, with respect to Wildness and Dark Skies, the route-wide cumulative effect of online dualling will be minimal; however, due to the potential for permanent lighting change, which may be associated with junction safety requirements in some areas, the cumulative effect is assessed as minor adverse.

An overarching principle of avoidance of lighting on the A9 mainline is expected to restrict lighting to areas where safety standards dictate.

National Scenic Areas (NSA)

Route-wide, just over 9% of the total online corridor, from Perth to Inverness, crosses NSA designations. The important factors to be considered are the potential effects on the Special Landscape Qualities of the National Scenic Areas. In their Commissioned Report No. 374, SNH define 'special qualities' as:

'…the characteristics that, individually or combined, give rise to an area's outstanding scenery'.

The special qualities of the NSAs should be recognised as key landscape and visual receptors for local dualling, and there is potential for adverse effects where dualling designs are not sympathetic to the NSA qualities and features.

However, where designs take cognisance of and respect the special qualities, there are also opportunities to manage the views from the road to improve the experience for road travellers to better appreciate these qualities.

SEA considers that online dualling will minimise the potential for adverse effects on the special qualities of the River Tay (Dunkeld) and Loch Tummel NSAs, presenting relatively minor adverse effects associated with road widening.

SEA considers that the near offline options (identified in the Environmental Report as options A6, B2 and B4) will present higher risk of moderate to major adverse effects on the special qualities of the NSAs, due to swathe cuts through woodland, new routes between woodland and river and more significant change through the Pass of Killiecrankie.

More detailed Landscape and Visual Impact Assessments will be required through later detailed design stages for A9 dualling, at the local level; informed by the strategic level work being undertaken via the Landscape Review.

Work will continue on the Landscape Review to inform the development of an A9 Design Guide, in consultation with key stakeholders.