Stonehaven Harbour will be out of bounds throughout the entire busy summer period this year, as a major infrastructure project takes place to fix corrosion damage.
Work, which was delayed due to pandemic, is scheduled to come to an end in October.
But while businesses in the area acknowledge the work must be done, they say they should have been “kept in the loop” amid worries it will hit their summer trade.
Over that time, new steel sheet piles will be installed in the harbour to fill in large holes that have been left in the existing ones by years of corrosion and pitting.
The current situation has left the rubble and loose material on which the piers sit vulnerable to being washed out to sea, and if left uncorrected the piers could collapse.
Aberdeenshire Council is investing £2.2million in the project, as part of a wider scheme to protect and enhance harbours across the area.
The Kincardine and Mearns area committee has approved a tender for the appointment of Devon-based contractors Teignmouth Maritime Services Ltd (TMS) to lead the works.
‘We appreciate this will cause disruption’
Stonehaven councillor and area committee chairwoman Wendy Agnew said: “Ensuring the long-term survival of the harbour is absolutely vital for the whole of Stonehaven and I very much welcome these works to safeguard our wonderful attraction.
“Of course we fully appreciate this will cause some disruption and we will be engaging directly with residents, businesses, harbour users and community groups to ensure that everyone is aware of the works, access arrangements and any road closures throughout the summer.”
Philip McKay, head of roads and infrastructure at the council, said: “Given the deteriorating condition of the existing harbour infrastructure, this is quite simply a must-do project and timing to coincide with the summer tides and weather is equally critical.
“We appreciate there will be some disruption this summer, however we want the town’s harbour to remain a wonderful tourist attraction and a source of economic wealth for the town for decades to come.”
Concerns raised about impact on summer tourism
Although the project was welcomed by locals as a general concept, some businesses have raised concerns about the impact it could have on summer tourism in the town.
Simon Cruikshank, who has run The Ship Inn at the harbour for more than 18 years, is hoping that the upcoming season will be key for his business to get back on its feet.
However, he said residents should have been informed of the project before a final decision was made and criticised the lack of clarity of what it would actually involve.
He said:” I’m not disputing that the work has to be done and I’m accepting that it has to be done in the summer. But we should have been kept in the loop.
“We are employers and bring a lot of business and prosperity to Stonehaven and we should have been at least given the courtesy of a heads up, instead of having to read about it in the paper.
“The summer season is vital for us as this is where most of our money come from. And when you’re finally starting to pull yourself back together and recover, they are now talking about this.
“I think it’s been made to sound a lot worse than it actually is, but if this is going to affect trade in the summer, it would be very damaging for our business – especially after we’ve had two years of Covid.”
Dawn Black of the Stonehaven Business Association added: “The stability and integrity of the harbour are vital to Stonehaven so it’s essential that the works get done.
“However, the timing of it is not brilliant because summertime is when we welcome the most visitors to the town. And because of the impact of Covid, this season is vital for businesses that need to get back on their feet.
“One of the biggest attractions in Stonehaven is the harbour so anything that would discourage people from going down there is going to be detrimental both to businesses at the bay and tourism in the town as a whole.”