RESIDENTS of two towns that are only a few minutes journey away from each other face a 50-mile detour if repairs are not made to a bridge linking them.
For more than two centuries, the communities of Banff and Macduff in Aberdeenshire have been just a mile apart on the opposite banks of the mouth of the River Deveron.
But now Aberdeenshire councillors say the bridge that connects them could be closed – unless vital repairs are made to the eroding support of the historic Banff Bridge.
There is no separate foot crossing across the river so if the bridge was lost, then residents would face a 25-mile trip each way through Aberchirder and Turriff.
Describing the crucial works needed to be done to the crossing, Aberdeenshire Council’s roads officer Alan Burns told councillors that damage to the bridge’s support pillars would only get worse as strong tides continue to batter them.
Mark Findlater, of Aberdeenshire Council’s Banff and Buchan area committee, asked what the nature of the work needed to be done was and how urgently it was required.
He was told that because the Georgian bridge’s foundations were constructed from timber, further scouring – a form of erosion – could wear the protective concrete away, exposing the wood.
Mr Burns said: “During repairs many years ago, the stonework which diverts the flow of water around the pillars was removed.
“Now the water is hitting them at full force, causing this scouring to occur.
“Without works to reinstate the stoneworks, this situation will only get worse and could put the structure at risk in future.”
Mr Burns said that repairing the stonework in a V-shape would divert the water around the endangered pillars.
While the £110,000 repairs are being carried out, one lane of the bridge will be closed for short periods to allow materials to be craned down and all work will be done at low tide, councillors were told.
Banff councillor and committee chairman John Cox said yesterday that he was hopeful that motorists would understand the need for the diversions due to the urgent nature of the repairs to the bridge.
He said: “The monetary cost of carrying out these repairs is high, but it is insignificant when compared to the economic impact that the bridge being closed would cause.
“With the speed of the water and the weather we have experienced in recent years, any further damage to the bridge is going to cause a chain reaction of damage.”
He added: “The integrity of the crossing must be protected and that is why these repairs are so important.
“It is not the first time repairs have been done to the bridge and while I appreciate they will cause inconvenience for motorists there are alternative routes available.
“I also think that this situation brings up again the need for a foot crossing over the Deveron so that 24-hour access between the two towns can be maintained at all times.
“I look forward to these proposals coming back before the committee again as part of the Banff regeneration strategy.”
The seven-arch Banff Bridge was previously closed in 2003 for repairs. It carries the A98 over the River Deveron between Banff and Macduff in Aberdeenshire.
It was completed in 1779 by the famous British civil engineer John Smeaton and replaced an earlier bridge that was swept away in a flood.
It was Smeaton’s third major bridge and is similar in both design and structure to his earlier bridges at Coldstream and Perth, but has smaller arches.
As is characteristic of Smeaton’s major bridges, the weight of the bridge is in its foundations, while the spandrels incorporate voids between parallel walls.
This technique allowed him to minimise the thickness of the arches — they are just 2ft thick.