A VITAL tourist route in Aberdeenshire is to reopen to light traffic this summer - four years after being closed because of landslide fears.
The Bervie Braes above the coastal town of Stonehaven carries the road which links the burgh with the spectacular ruins of Dunnottar Castle, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the North east.
The once busy route above the cliffs has been sealed off since December, 2009, when it was closed following a series of landslips after days of torrential rain flooded homes and businesses in the centre of the town.
A recent report by the Stonehaven Town Partnership estimated that reopening the road could be worth up to £9 million to businesses in the area.
And today members of Aberdeenshire Council’s policy and resources committee approved proposals which will allow the road to be reopened to traffic during the key summer tourist season, operating the route one-way, with a weight restriction, and a 20mph speed limit.
A council spokeswoman said: “Under the new scheme, the road will open during summer months - April to October - with a weight limit of three tonnes, a 20mph speed limit and a one-way system running from Dunnottar Castle into Stonehaven.
“Barriers will also be installed as an added safety measure on the road running down Bervie Braes.”
She continued: “The necessary steps will now be taken for the barrier units to be bought and installed on the road. Subject to delivery of the barriers, it is hoped that the road will be reopened within a matter of weeks. Further work will be carried out to formalise the arrangements and they will be carried out after the road closes again in October.”
A total of £3 million has already been spent stabilising the lowers slopes of the Bervie Braes to prevent the threat of landslips affecting homes in the harbour area of the town. And the new road scheme is estimated to cost £300,000
Councillor Martin Kitts-Hayes, the vice chairman of the committee, said: “This council has demonstrated over the past few years its total commitment to Stonehaven, and in terms of economic development generally speaking.”
Frank Budd, of Stonehaven Town Partnership, had earlier told the committee: “Stonehaven is a real tourist town and the biggest attraction for tourists is the world famous Dunnottar Castle. We would like dearly that the main connection to a major attraction remains open all year round.”
A council spokeswoman explained: “When the road is open, a system will be put in place to trigger the closure of the road should there be concerns about the stability of the slope in the even of particularly heavy rainfall.
“To date there is no objective data on how regularly the road was used before it was closed. Once the road reopens, the council will monitor the usage of the road during summer months. Further work will also be carried out to assess the economic impact of the route on the town and the wider Aberdeenshire area. The condition of the slope and the number and volume of any slips will also be monitored.”
She added: “Over approximately the last 12 months there have been eight landslips, of varying sizes, on the upper slope of Bervie Braes. While none have caused significant amounts of debris to flow onto the road, they do confirm the instability of the upper slope.”