Today marks another milestone event in the fight to save the ancient woodlands of Aberdeenshire, as local campaign group Road Sense start their court case challenging the Scottish Ministers’ decision to proceed with the Aberdeen Bypass (also known as the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route or AWPR).
The campaigners’ case is built upon these key arguments:
- The restricted remit of the Public Local Inquiry, and how it failed to comply with rights of public participation (for example, no questions were allowed about the need for the road or how it was chosen – the final route was never put out to public consultation).
- The failure to comply with the national and international wildlife legislation that protects habitats such as the River Dee Special Area of Conservation and species such as otters, bats, red squirrels and water voles.
Although the case will not look directly at the ancient woodland loss building the bypass would cause – 15 woods in total – it is addressing the needs of two of the most protected species that live in them – bats and red squirrels. If the court case succeeds in demonstrating that these species were not adequately considered when drawing up the plans, this may send the government back to the drawing board, saving the woodland, at least for a while.
The Road Sense community campaigners were recently granted a Protected Expenses Order by the Court of Session in Edinburgh. The campaigners will have to pay for their own legal expenses, but in the event that they should lose the case, this will limit their exposure to Transport Scotland’s (the government body wanting to build the road) legal costs to only £40,000!
It’s still a very high price to pay and one that would stop many campaign groups in their tracks, so the woods of Aberdeenshire are lucky to have such a tenacious group fighting on their behalf!
We will let you know what happens. Good luck to everyone.
Christina Byrne – Case officer, Woods under Threat