Residents in communities across the north-east are being “failed” by a lack of maintenance to bridges, councillors have heard.
Aberdeenshire Council’s infrastructure services committee met yesterday to discuss the local authority’s management of its roads.
The council has a total of 1,303 bridges on its road network – many of which are ageing and falling into a state of disrepair. However, there is not currently enough money to repair them.
Documents prepared ahead of the meeting revealed it would take spending of £5.1 million each year just to maintain current levels – with the existing allocation just £1.4 million annually.
Fewer than 10% of bridges under the council’s control were built to cope with modern traffic volume.
That has led to some, such as Park Bridge which links the villages of Durris and Drumoak, being closed to vehicles – turning a two-mile journey into an eight-mile trip.
When it was shut last year, furious residents set up the Park Bridge Action Group (PBAG), claiming they had lost their direct link between the two communities and calling for it to be put back into action.
Now the group has accused the council of “failing” residents in Drumoak and Durris – as well as other communities across the north-east – by not maintaining bridges.
At the meeting, PBAG spokeswoman Anne Shearer said: “The council are failing in their statutory duty by not maintaining bridges. This policy of not maintaining bridges has been in place for some years and is resulting in unacceptable bridge closures.
“Some of these buildings are listed structures and are an important part of our national heritage.”
Fellow member Alan Holmes – an engineer – accused the local authority of “systemic failures”.
He added: “Our experience is hugely concerning if it is typical.
“There are engineering, management and structural failures. Recommendations are made and there is no follow-up to them.
“This has been the case over many years. I removed a 16 or 17-year-old tree from the centre of Park Bridge, and this suggests systemic management failures.
“Park Bridge does not require grand repairs. It simply needs critical maintenance to be carried out.
“There is no need for the current closure. Park Bridge has been in place for 170 years and it is an important structure. We should be celebrating and fixing it.”
The group’s action was backed up in the meeting by Crathes, Drumoak and Durris Community Council member Mark Ansell.
He said: “The community is indebted to the Park Bridge Action Group for their work. This closure is breaking a 166-year-old tie with our neighbouring villages.
“The Durris and Drumoak communities will not accept a permanent closure to vehicles until all other options have been followed through.”
In response to the trio, committee chairman Peter Argyle said: “We have 1,303 bridges in Aberdeenshire and very few of them were put in place to meet modern traffic demands and climate change.
“We will be getting a report in the new year about specific bridges. Park Bridge is one among others which are facing challenges.
“This is not simple because the budget is incredibly tight. The demand is very significant and we can only deal with that by prioritisation.
“We will look at that in the new year.”