Council announces plans for new bridge over River Gairn

Aberdeenshire council is to develop plans for a new bridge over the River Gairn to ease pressure on the existing historic structure, near Ballater.

The A-listed Gairnshiel Bridge was built sometime between 1748 and 1752 as part of the Hanoverian military road network following the Jacobite rebellion.

It carries the A939 over the River Gairn, around six miles north of Ballater, providing a vital road link between the Upper Deeside and Upper Donside Valleys, then further north to Tomintoul in Moray and on to Speyside.

Sadly, the bridge has suffered the effects of modern traffic, with a sharp turn at its northern access proving difficult for larger vehicles. There have been several collisions with the bridge parapets – most recently just a day after reopening after repairs – and a weight restriction of 18tonnes was imposed in 2016. 

Proposals are now being drawn up for a new bridge with a single span of around 32m, located a short distance east of the existing structure.

Cllr Peter Argyle, chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee and local ward member, said: “It’s clear that action needs to be taken both to protect the beautiful and historic Gairnshiel Bridge and to make the route more accessible for modern traffic.

“There is still much to be done to develop formal plans and conduct the necessary consultation with interested parties but the principle of a new crossing would seem to be the most sensible way forward.”

Infrastructure Services Director Stephen Archer added: “Although many of the accidents have been relatively minor, each repair has an impact on this important structure and results in disruption to traffic.

“Part of what we need to achieve is a solution that fits in with the local landscape and respects the history of the original bridge.”

The proposals have been developed with input from fellow local ward members Cllr Geva Blackett and Cllr Paul Gibb, who have fed directly into the discussions.
Aberdeenshire Council plans to submit a planning pre-application to the Cairngorms National Park Authority later this year.

Thereafter, a detailed design will be prepared and, subject to planning permission, it is hoped the new bridge will be built 2021. Plans will also be drawn up for renovation of the existing bridge in 2022.