In this blog RSPB Scotland's Stuart Benn looks at what impact the project to turn the A9 into dual carriageway will have on our Insh Marshes reserve in the Highlands.
What the A9 dualling means for RSPB Scotland Insh Marshes
RSPB Scotland Insh Marshes
Living in Inverness, I often drive along the A9. This is the road that takes me down to Edinburgh and Glasgow, and it’s currently undergoing a huge project to turn it into a dual carriageway. This road also brings visitors north to the Scottish Highlands and will be familiar to the many thousands of tourists who experience the wonderful landscapes and wildlife of this celebrated part of Scotland.
Spectacular views en route include those of the Perthshire hills and the drama of the Drumochter Pass but, impressive though that scenery may be, for me and many others nothing quite matches the sensation of crossing the River Spey and gazing across RSPB Scotland’s Insh Marshes nature reserve towards the Cairngorm Mountains beyond. This is the most important natural floodplain in Britain and it’s a fantastic place for nature.
But, unfortunately, this very location – where the A9 crosses the Spey - could prove to be the most environmentally challenging section of the whole dualling project. And this is because, what is effectively a new four-lane road will be built across Insh Marshes taking out a sizeable chunk of the exceptional wildlife habitats of this wonderful reserve. Insh Marshes is vitally important for breeding waders like lapwings, redshanks, curlew and snipe. And the new road will inevitably destroy some of the best breeding habitat of all.
Snipe are one of the birds found at Insh Marshes
RSPB Scotland accept that the road is going ahead, and that there are big risks if things are not done properly, but we believe that with significant effort and commitment, the harm to nature can be minimised and the value of the site for nature might even be able to be increased. This is one of Scotland’s most well known and loved wildlife sites and the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland will need to work extremely hard to ensure that nature does not lose out. In particular, they will need to ensure that the impacts on the site are minimised through careful design of the new route and that any loss of space for wildlife is replaced by creating alternative places for nature nearby. We look forward to working with the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland on this.
We understand that the planning process is complex and that transport links need to be improved. We are also aware that there are legitimate concerns about flood risk, which also need to be addressed. However, there is a real opportunity here to ensure that upgrading this iconic route through the Highlands not only improves transport links and reduces flood risk to local communities, but also delivers improvements for nature.
Over the next few months, Transport Scotland will be weighing up all the options before deciding upon the final design of the crossing – let’s hope they choose wisely and find the solution that works best for people and wildlife both now and in the long term.
This is very much a current case and we plan to keep you up to date with progress with updates through our Scottish Nature Notes blog.
In the meantime, for more information, and to make your voice heard before Transport Scotland’s consultation closes on 4th May, please click here.
Thanks redkite. There are a number of options being explored and our priority is to make sure nature doesn’t lose out overall.
Aedán Smith, Head of Planning and Development, RSPB Scotland
Insh Marshes is such a great and important Reserve one shudders when something like major road works comes along. Realistically something like dialling an A road is not likely to be stopped however hard the RSPB might try. However I think the important point is to try to make sure the Reserve comes out at the end of all this even better than it is now. For example any land taken for road widening must be compensated for by the Ministry providing the same amount of land or more else where on the Resrve. It may also be possible for the Ministry to carry out some free earth moving work to enhance the Reserve. Wildlife barriers may also be needed along the road side to protect birds etc from colliding with fast moving traffic. Good luck, it is so important to get this right for wildlife.
This section of the project is still being designed and although we know there could be some impacts on Insh Marshes we don’t yet know what the implications will be. We are, though, pushing Transport Scotland to ensure that nature is prioritised and we will strongly resist any proposal that damages the overall nature value of the site.
Why is the RSPB not fighting this and this is the first time I've heard anything about this happening. There should have been more publicity about this happening by the RSPB. I'm quite disappointed by the RSPB because of this.