Farmers across Aberdeenshire have waited patiently for the long-delayed opening of the new Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR) – only to be informed at the last minute of a ban on agricultural vehicles.
The new £715m route, which is essentially a 58km by-pass of Aberdeen City running from Ellon in the north to Stonehaven in the south, is a dual carriageway rather than a motorway, but local officials have suggested – only a month ahead of opening – that the road will be granted ’special road status’, excluding tractors and other self-propelled farm equipment.
This is a particular issue for farmers from the beef heartlands in the north of Aberdeenshire accessing the McIntosh Donald, now Kepak, plant, at Portlethen near the southern end of the AWPR.
If the ban is implemented, it will force them to continue using the notoriously congested Anderson Drive which, since the 1930s, has served as an inner city centre by-pass. The route is now inadequate and unsuitable for tractors and livestock trailers.
Peter Chapman, Aberdeenshire farmer and Scottish Conservative MSP, has written to Transport Scotland to seek clarity after the issue was highlighted by NFUS during a discussion at the recent New Deer Show.
Mr Chapman said: "It would appear the AWPR will be given special road designation, meaning tractors will not be allowed. My view is that this road is not a motorway, it is a dual carriageway and therefore tractors should be permitted to travel along the route.
“If not, we will be forcing agricultural vehicles through the middle of Aberdeen, which does nothing for efficiency, congestion or our greenhouse gas emissions."
A Transport Scotland spokesman said agricultural vehicles would need to meet specific conditions to travel on the road.
“One of these conditions prevents agricultural vehicles from traveling more than 1.5 km between farm land, unless they are being used for horticultural purposes such as trimming verges.”
Given that the junctions on the new road are all more than 1.5km apart this is effectively a complete ban.
He added: “We understand this means it is not possible to meet this distance criterion on the new road.
However, as strategic traffic will transfer from the existing road network to the AWPR, we expect to see significant journey time savings on local roads, generating significant benefits for agricultural use.”
That is unlikely to placate many Aberdeenshire farmers especially this who have lost land to the new road and put up with years of convenience during the prolonged construction phase.