Transport Scotland propose to upgrade, in four sections, the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen.  h+m were appointed to provide landscape design advice for the 30km section between Hardmuir and Fochabers, and to undertake a landscape and visual impact assessment of the scheme proposals.

This is a complex, multi-disciplinary design project which required an integrated, holistic approach to engineering and environmental design, in order to integrate it with the varied landscape character of Moray.  We approached the project on the basis of promoting a clear, overarching landscape and aesthetic design vision tas the mechanism for achieving a balanced, considered design solution, and that a consistent high design standard was required along the whole of the route corridor.  This approach recognised that design and mitigation is a dynamic process, with the objective of embedding mitigation measures into the scheme proposals.

How the road user experiences the landscape of the A96 corridor underpinned the whole design and mitigation approach.  Key focal features of the existing landscape were identified along the route corridor, with associated opportunities for retaining good quality open views to the wider landscape. These were incorporated into the scheme design to create a varied journey experience along the road corridor for road users, through incorporating a series of interesting and stimulating views, with other scheme objectives being balanced against the road user experience.  Detailed design measures of landform and planting design were tailored to support the overall road user experience.    

h+m prepared a series of environmental design intent drawings to inform the engineering design development and to understand inter-relationships between different scheme components. These greatly assisted in establishing specific scheme objectives and demonstrating how engineering and environmental issues could be streamlined into a coherent and balanced design solution.

The scheme design carefully considered locations of river crossings and changes to river corridor character, with h+m inputting to the aesthetic design of major structures, whilst seeking to minimise impacts on sensitive nationally and locally valued landscapes through considered routeing, design and mitigation strategies.