Community awaits decision on bridge replacement
Locals whose lives have been affected by storm damaged bridges around the King Edward area will hear on Thursday of Aberdeenshire Council's Infrastructure Services Committee decisions on their replacement.
Seven bridges were damaged to the extent they could not be used, with repairs only carried out at South Mains which is located on the B9105 as it is a main cross-country route.
The other bridges have been subject to closures since September and both Banff and Buchan councillors previously in December and Formartine councillors this week in Ellon were asked to approve moves not to replace them.
Banff members voted against the proposal in December and today Formartine councillors joined them in expressing their concerns over the effects on communities of such actions.
Formartine councillors were asked to consider the non-replacement of the North Litterty Bridge which sits on the edge of their area, while Banff members previously considered bridges at Gorrachie, Fortrie, Bruntyards, Millcroft and Mill of Balmaud.
Members fully appreciated the financial situation that the damage had caused with current estimates of repair backlog in Aberdeenshire of around £100million, priority is on bridges at risk of closure or restriction in the next five to 10 years on the A and B class networks.
Only the bridges at Bruntyards and Gorrachie are being considered as bringing positive cost/benefit results if they were to eventually replaced.
Speakingat the meeting councillor Alistair Forsyth raised the issue of alternatives to bridge replacement, such as fords, which were still used elsewhere in Scotland and closer to home near Ellon.
He said: “A ford is not that expensive and are fairly easy to maintain.
“They keep the roads open and I would like to see some comment that either discounts fords or says this isn't a bad idea.”
Roads officer Philip Leiper explained that they were indeed a potential option: “But only if the profile of the land next to them affords it.
“What we have with these bridges are under road water courses rather than over road ones.
“There would be cost and engineering issues and its whether that would be more or less than a bridge replacement would have to be seen.”
Councillor Iain Taylor looked at the effect on farming businesses and said: “My rough estimate is that at least 1800ha of land are directly affected by these closures.
“There are six large potato stores within the area and this is driving farm traffic off rural routes onto main roads and adding considerable financial burden to farmers as well as increasing their carbon footprint.”
He also expressed concern on the effect for local school pupils, for whom several were now faced with considerably longer school days due to transport having to take much longer routes and the knock on effect this had on cost to education services.
Councillor Anne Stirling said: “It is very disappointing to see that the reports brought to committee don't look at the social and economic impacts of the closures as these have considerable impact on both.
“I back councillor Taylor's call to have officers work collaboratively with locals to find solutions as events like this will become more of an issue as the years progress.
Chair of the committee Isobel Davidson also stressed that information on the social and economic impact was needed and said: “Without that information for each bridge it is incredibly difficult to make any kind of judgement call on which ones should and potentially should not be replaced.”
The councillors comments will now be fed into the report which goes before the Infrastructure Committee on Thursday at Woodhill House.