Aberdeenshire bridges are falling down as council accused of failing to prioritise infrastructure

With severe weather increasingly hitting Aberdeenshire leading to more flood damage and wear and tear, it’s thought the number of bridges in need of repair will keep increasing.

A council has been accused of overseeing “a comprehensive hollowing out of rural infrastructure” by allowing bridges to crumble, campaigners have warned.

There are 1,311 public bridges in Aberdeenshire, and it is estimated almost a quarter (23 per cent) are showing signs of “significant deterioration”.

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An RAC Foundation annual survey of substandard council-owned bridges found Aberdeenshire to have the highest number of them in Scotland.

Gorrachie bridge in Aberdeenshire is one of the bridges the local groups are campaigning to have restored (pic: Caroline Close)Gorrachie bridge in Aberdeenshire is one of the bridges the local groups are campaigning to have restored (pic: Caroline Close)
Gorrachie bridge in Aberdeenshire is one of the bridges the local groups are campaigning to have restored (pic: Caroline Close)

Aberdeenshire council has 14 black-listed bridges, which means they are closed to vehicle access. Another 14 have red status, which means they will likely close within five years. Meanwhile 83 are amber listed, meaning they could close in five years.

According to data released in a Freedom of Information request, five of the black-listed bridges are not on the council’s priority list, which cites bridges in need of immediate intervention.

An open letter, signed by local campaign groups, said the list of bridges requiring maintenance or replacement in Aberdeenshire totals an estimated £74.5 million, while the total overall capital spend on bridges last year was only £3.189m.

The letter insists the council prioritises spending to restore the bridges, which signatories described as “a crisis long time in the making”.

It read: “In 2021 and 2022, extra council tax was levied on all residents to create infrastructure funds in order to tackle this immense backlog of maintenance, but in 2023/24 only 10 per cent of those funds were allocated to bridge maintenance.

"In contrast, 14 per cent was spent on the extension of an outdoor centre ironically within half a mile of the River Don crossing at Monymusk, a bridge which is at high risk of closure and remains unfunded.”

Caroline Close, a member of campaign group Reconnect King Edward, said Gorrachie bridge has gone further down the council’s priority list despite being black-listed.

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"In our area, we lost eight bridges in one go in 2019,” she said. “The council fixed two of them, but at the time there was no priority list and we had to campaign really hard to get the council to even consider replacing them. Five of them have been replaced since then, but there’s one left to do. It’s a statutory duty of the council to maintain the roads; it’s not optional.”

The council said the red-listed Banff bridge is top priority, while the black-listed Aboyne bridge, which recently had to close, has been upgraded to second place.

Infrastructure Services Committee chairman, councillor Alan Turner, said: “There is no question that the management of our bridges requires very careful consideration and this workbank prioritisation programme does just that, providing clarity for the public to see which bridges require the most immediate interventions. With unlimited funding we would, of course, want to see all our bridges repaired or replaced as required, but we have to face facts that we simply don’t have the budget to do that.”



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