ABERDEENSHIRE councillors are set to give top priority to vital repairs to a storm-damaged footbridge which provides the only access between a Buchan village and miles of unspoilt beaches .
The Ladies Bridge was closed to the public and tourists more than three years ago after one of its parapets suffered severe storm damage. The 170ft long bridge was built in 1922 and is named after the local women who raised the funds to construct the link over the Water of Cruden between the village of Cruden Bay and the beach at the Bay of Cruden.
The timber bridge is owned by the Cruden Bay Community Association but Aberdeenshire Council is responsible for maintaining the structure through an agreement which is due to end in January 2014.
Repairs carried out by the local community, in conjunction with Aberdeenshire Council, have allowed the bridge to re-open. But a report to go before members of the Buchan area committee next Tuesday has revealed that “further significant repairs” which could cost almost £500,000 are now required to ensure Ladies Bridge continues to function and remains safe to use.
Stephen Archer, the council’s director of Infrastructure Services, states in a report to the committee that an options study by council officials, completed in October last year, had estimated it could cost as much as £488,000 to carry out repairs by a specialist contractor to give the bridge a further 30 year service life.
Mr Archer states: “On receipt of this budget estimate it was considered that this far exceeded available funds and a decision was made to reconsider the options available to the council. It was decided that the council’s own structures team and planning service should review the work to date and undertake a feasibility study with a view to establishing a more affordable solution, provided sufficient resources could be found to undertake this work.”
Other work on the council’s bridge network and repairs needed after the December 2012 floods have delayed the feasibility study.
Bur Mr Archer states: “It is now intended that the feasibility study work is prioritised and that sufficient staff resources are allocated to allow the scheme to progress as quickly as possible. It is anticipated that the feasibility study will be complete in early June 2013.Thereafter a further update will be provided to the committee on the timetable for works.
“The funds secured from various sources for work to the bridge amount to approximately £100,000. Additional funds will require to be investigated if the feasibility study concludes that the cost of appropriate restoration will exceed the funding available.”
He adds: “The bridge provides the only access from the village to the beach, which is both a resource for the community and a major visitor attraction. There are no other viable alternative accesses as the golf course lies immediately to the rear of the beach.”