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27 December 2008
Scottish Neolithic site threatened by planned bypass

Transport Scotland denied claims that the discovery of a Neolithic settlement would delay a long-awaited bypass on the A96. The Scottish Government body said the Fochabers bypass, estimated to cost 19-25million and take two years to complete, 'remains on schedule to meet the timescale recently announced'.
     Campaigners have waited decades for work to begin on the Fochabers scheme, which will divert traffic from the village's narrow High Street and Mosstodloch, and speed up the flow on the main Inverness-Aberdeen road. It was finally approved by Scottish ministers in 2003. An appeal lodged at the Court of Session by objectors was dismissed in 2007, clearing the way for work to start after years of delay. A three-year plan reiterated Transport Scotland's intentions to start work by the end of 2008 or early 2009, with completion expected by late 2010.
     In a recent letter to Lennox Community Council, MSP Richard Lochhead said the discovery of an important Neolithic site, which had previously been undisturbed, had been made over the summer. His letter said further archaeological work would need to be carried out 'in the coming months'.
     Hamish Moir, chairman of the Fochabers Bypass Action Group, was angry that they had not been told earlier about the Neolithic site. A spokesman for Transport Scotland said that archaeological work would be carried out on the Coal Brae site in parallel with the tender process and would not delay progress on the bypass. Gavin Cameron said background work had been carried out, including clearing the site and dealing with 'sensitive ecological issues'.

Source: The Press and Journal (26 December 2008)

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