No quick fix leaves community counting the cost
A frustrated community rallied together at a public meeting to call for action to repair storm-damaged bridges.
Back in September storms struck across Aberdeenshire with the King Edward area being heavily affected.
At December’s meeting of the Banff and Buchan Area committee, councillors rejected proposals by Aberdeenshire Council officers to not replace the six collapsed bridges.
Replacing Bridge of Gorrachie, Bridge of Fortrie, Bruntyards, Millcroft, Mill of Balmaud and North Litterty would cost the local authority in the region of £1.26 million.
The council’s structures manager Donald MacPherson said at the time that replacing the bridges would have to be on the basis of cost and priority.
At the meeting, held at King Edward Community Hall, more than 75 locals attended and expressed their anger at lack of action from the council, raising a variety of concerns.
Collectively the local community wants to collect evidence on the full social, financial and safety impacts of the bridge closures to put forward in front of the authority’s infrastructure services committee, which is due to meet on Thursday, January 23.
Banff and Buchan MP David Duguid, who attended the meeting, confirmed that he will write to both the council and the Scottish Government regarding the severely damaged bridges.
Mr Duguid said: “Local residents and businesses operating in the King Edward area have already endured months of disruption as a result of these bridge closures.
“The fact that more than 75 people turned out for the meeting clearly displays the strength of feeling about this locally.
“There is clear desire to get these bridges repaired and reopened as quickly as is possible.”
He will also look into options with the UK government as Westminster returns after the holidays.
He added: “I have been in touch with the local councillor, community council and Aberdeenshire Council ever since the flooding in September.
“However, I am now writing to Aberdeenshire Council to ask what progress is being made.
“I have also written to the Scottish Government to ask what support can be provided from Holyrood.
“In addition, I will examine options with the UK government when I return to Westminster this week.
“I understand that there will be a considerable cost to getting this work done, but these bridges are hugely important to local residents, businesses, public services and emergency services.”
Resident Caroline Close urged people to write letters detailing the impact that the closures have had on their lives and send them to the community hall by tomorrow.
These letters are being compiled to be sent to the infrastructure committee as part of the communities response.
Speaking at the meeting, she said: “Thank you for those visiting the meeting to discuss the repair of the collapsed bridges in King Edward.
“The infrastructure service have not contacted us and we need formal consultation.
“This shows the lack of understanding that the council have about modern farming. It has had a huge impact on King Edward and surrounding areas.
“We would like to compile letters from people affected by the closures.”
Turriff and District councillor Iain Taylor backed the campaign to repair the bridges.
He said: “The road going from Crudie across Cuminestown to Turriff was terrible.
“The major agriculture production is significant in that area and I encourage individuals and businesses to go forward with letters.”
Troup ward councillor Mark Findlater encouraged locals to support representation from community groups to speak on their behalf at the upcoming meeting.