The option to create a dual carriageway through the Bennachie area has been scrapped by the Scottish Government.
It has been removed following initial design and assessment work, and also feedback from the public.
Initial options removed include the existing A96 Inverurie Bypass and the offline southern route between east of Huntly and Blackburn, which passes through the Bennachie Special Landscape Area.
Local communities and road users in the Inverurie area have the chance to see and comment on the options being taken forward for further design as the Scottish government looks to identify a preferred route option next year.
Public exhibitions will be held at Inverurie Town Hall today (Monday, October 8) and tomorrow (Tuesday, October 9), and residents in Huntly will get to have their say on Wednesday (October 10) at Stewarts Hall. A final public exhibition will be held on Thursday (October 11) at Kinellar Community Hall in Blackburn. Each exhibition will run from 12 noon to 7pm.
Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson said: “The Scottish Government has given a clear commitment to dual the A96 which will see delivery of around 88 miles of upgraded road between Inverness and Aberdeen, a huge task but one we are committed to delivering.
“As part of that work, we are taking forward the design work for the 26 mile stretch of the route between east of Huntly and Aberdeen and now we are able to let people see the initial options we have developed for this challenging section of the A96.
“A number of options have been deselected at this stage as a result of existing topography, engineering complexity and environmental impact. This includes those near Bennachie and those through Inverurie on the existing A96.”
The removal of the plan to upgrade the A96 through the Bennachie Special Landscape Area has been welcomed by Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin.
Last month, Ms Martin welcomed campaigners from the Save Bennachie group to meet with new Transport Secretary Michael Matheson to discuss their concerns.
The group also previously met with then Economy Minister Keith Brown earlier this year to discuss their opposition to the plans.
Ms Martin MSP said: “I am thrilled Transport Secretary Michael Matheson has confirmed the route passing Bennachie has now been dropped.
“The Save Bennachie group have tirelessly campaigned and shown true passion and dedication for their cause.
“I commend them all for a campaign which has been time-consuming and, those who were a part of it, for their commitment and determination.
“They managed to achieve cross-party support and I know MSPs from all parties shared a collective admiration for them.
“I would like to thank the Transport Minister and Transport Scotland for all their work to date and for taking the time to meet with myself, other MSPs and the Save Bennachie team to listen to their views. Their hard work has paid off.”
North East MSP Mike Rumbles added: "I’m delighted that the Scottish Government has decided to remove possible routes for the A96 that would damage the natural environment around Bennachie.
"I have no idea why it has taken so long for the minister and Transport Scotland to make this commitment. The option to divert the dual carriageway south of Inverurie and over the foothills of Bennachie should never have been on the table in the first place.
“I have met with the transport minister and local campaigners here in the Parliament on several occasions and I can categorically say that it is thanks to their tireless efforts that we are seeing this progress today.
“I look forward to exploring the options that have now been put forward and I will be watching to ensure that no concessions are made that could damage our iconic landscape.”