Aberdeenshire Council pledges to seek additional financial aid to repair flood-hit bridges

Aberdeenshire Council has pledged to continue to seek additional financial assistance to repair six rural bridges destroyed by flooding last year.

The local authority’s Infrastructure Services Committee (ISC) agreed on Thursday (Jan 23) to enter into further dialogue with both the Scottish and UK governments to explore the potential for additional financial aid, particularly in the context of the wider challenges the council faces with its bridges.

Councillors also approved early engagement with local communities and businesses within the affected King Edward areas, along with SEPA, on the loss of the six bridges at Gorrachie, Fortrie, Bruntyards, Millcroft, Mill of Balmaud and North Litterty, to explore other solutions and opportunities to address the loss of these bridges.

It was also confirmed that the replacement of Gorrachie and Bruntyards bridges were the top priorities of the six and should be replaced when funding becomes available.

The committee will receive a further update report in due course.

The ISC took into consideration the views of the council’s Banff and Buchan and Formartine area committees which both called for the bridges to be replaced. It also heard from three representatives of the local community including a resident, businessman and NFU Scotland representative.

Councillors were informed that a 10-year programme of work for the region’s bridges and structures was fully committed and that there was currently no available funding within that programme of work for the six King Edward bridges.

A report to committee said there was already a £100 million defect backlog within its bridges and structures programme and that replacing all the flood-affected bridges would cost in the region of £1.266 million.

ISC chair Cllr Peter Argyle stressed that while the council had finite resources, it would do all it could to reconnect the communities which had effectively been split in half by the storm.

He said afterwards: “We have around 1,400 bridges of varying size, condition and importance across our region and there is massive pressure on both our services and budgets to maintain them all.

“However, I can reassure all those affected in the King Edward area that we remain committed to talking with both the Scottish and UK governments to seek the additional financial assistance required to rebuild these bridges.”

Vice-chair John Cox added: “We have listened carefully to both the communities affected by these bridge closures and the area committees which represent them and we will now explore other sources of funding which might assist both the rural economy and rural diversity.

“We will also now embark on a programme of community engagement to ensure the views of residents and businesses are clearly heard and understood.”

Following the intense flooding during September, inspections took place at a number of bridges which had been damaged or in some cases completely washed away in the King Edward area.

As a result of those studies, the council prioritised the immediate repair of the bridges at South Mains and Auchmill, with anticipated competition within two to three weeks.

Auchmill Bridge, just off the A947, was damaged in an earlier road traffic collision, while South Mains on the B9105 fell victim to the flooding, but it’s rapid rebuild enabled the reopening the strategic route.

Council structural engineers say the remaining affected bridges have all either partially or fully collapsed and are beyond repair, with watercourses having also suffered extensive scouring.