Work progresses to restore historic Deeside bridges damaged in Storm Frank

While Storm Frank is a distant memory for some, work is continuing to deal with damage in Ballater, one of Aberdeenshire’s worst hit villages.

The area’s infrastructure was hit hard by the severe weather and flooding and 715 bridges had to be surveyed for damage.

Of those, 288 required essential repairs and priority was given to those forming part of the road network – those bridges which carry motorised transport.

Attention then turned to the remaining bridges, and of those, Polhollick and Cambus O’May bridges near Ballater in Royal Deeside were among those worst hit.
 
Both were affected by extremely high river levels and were struck by trees, caravans and other debris being swept downriver.

Work to deal with the damage to Polhollick has been ongoing for some time – a plan is in place to restore it to its former glory and some remedial works have already been done.
 
The foundations were stabilised and the bridge’s steps removed for safekeeping last year. A plan for further repairs is now in place and funding has been secured to carry out the work.

Given the historic status of the bridge, council officers have been speaking to Historic Environment Scotland (HES) about the plans and have submitted a formal application for Listed Building Consent to undertake further work.

The proposed repairs include straightening of the deck where it has been impacted by flood debris by a combination of pulling and heat treatment.

Following this, any elements beyond repair will be replaced like for like. The bridge’s hangers would be removed and straightened where required and the steps would be refurbished and reinstated.

It is likely to be several months before a decision on the application for Listed Building Consent, while consultation is carried out with the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, Historic Environment Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, Ballater and Crathie Community Council and others. 

While this process is ongoing officers will prepare the applications for other necessary consents and begin the procurement process for the repair work.

It is hoped a contract can be awarded by the end of June, with work to start on site around the end of July, to be complete by the middle of October.

The duration of the work will be highly dependent on weather and any changes required to the approach as works are carried out – there are many unknowns as it is difficult to predict how the bridge structure will respond to the proposed repair approach.

Once this work has been completed the council will start to review repair options for the Cambus O’May Bridge, taking into account any lessons learned from the repair approach at Polhollick. 

Funding has also been identified to take forward Cambus O'May repair design work but is still required for the repairs themselves and officers continue to explore options. 

Once a repair approach has been agreed and funding has been identified officers will seek the necessary consents and procure the works, but this process could take a number of years. 

Chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee, Peter Argyle, also a local councillor (Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside) said: “The fact we are still seeing work to repair damage inflicted by Storm Frank reminds us just how significant an event that was, and the severe impact on Aberdeenshire’s infrastructure.

“Given the amount of work and money required around the area, clearly prioritisation was important to make the best use of resources, and I’m glad there’s a date for the completion of repairs to Polhollick – it’s important to the local community and gives access to some of the fantastic walking around the area.

“I know officers will also be working hard to ensure we can restore Cambus O’May Bridge at the earliest opportunity, given the complexities of the work.”

Chair of the Marr Area Committee, Moira Ingleby, said: “Although they don’t form part of the roads network, both of these bridges are important to the local area in many ways – from recreation to tourism.

“They are also part of the history of the area and it was a shock to see how badly both were damaged during Storm Frank, so many people will be pleased to hear that plans are progressing to bring both Polhollick and Cambus O’May bridges back to their former glory.” 

While both projects progress, it is important to note that both bridges will continue to be fenced-off in the interest of safety – due to the damage they are both still deemed to be unsafe structures.