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‘It looks like it’s been bombed’: Aberdeenshire residents in limbo as road damaged in Storm Arwen still not repaired one year on

Storm Arwen damage
The access road to Kenny Sharp's home, north of Insch, has been closed due to damage caused by Storm Arwen for almost a year. Image: Kami Thomson / DC Thomson.

When Kenny Sharp returned from working offshore last November, he found his home blocked by decade-old trees.

The fierce winds of Storm Arwen had wreaked havoc all around his home near Insch, with dozens of branches and hefty trunks left strewn across the road and nearby fields.

Many were left without electricity for days while temperatures plummeted and gusts continued to batter the region, toppling acres of woodlands.

Historic buildings, properties and nature parks bore the worst of the storm, with efforts still ongoing to bring the north-east back to its former splendor.

Road currently closed ‘indefinitely’

Like many others, Mr Sharp’s family experienced first-hand the wide-spread chaos and destruction of the adverse weather.

The unclassified road, which is the only access point to his and several other homes, was closed by Aberdeenshire Council shortly after Storm Arwen due to fallen trees.

And now, almost a year later, it remains “indefinitely” shut and in disrepair.

Drivers continue to be forced to weave their way around massive trunks left sticking out from the grass verges, while most of the tarmac lays shattered under the root beds.

Storm Arwen damage
Dozens of decade-old trees were uprooted in Storm Arwen, destroying the tarmac of the access road to Mr Sharp’s home. Image: Kenny Sharp.

“Initially, everything seemed pretty positive with the council,” Mr Sharp said.

“They said they will put up a road closure for six months and that within that period they will have the trees cleared and the road will be resurfaced.

“But obviously they are not getting anywhere. The massive root beds have completely destroyed a lot of the tarmac and the road looks like it’s been bombed.

“We are paying more than £170 council tax per month here, and all we really pay for is to use that road to access our home and to get our bins emptied.”

‘Threats’ to block road with barriers

Mr Sharp has been urging the council to carry out the necessary repairs for months amid concerns for local residents’ – including his wife’s and six-year-old son’s – safety.

But the local authority has argued it cannot fix the road until the trunks – which belong to landowner Brian Mackie – have been removed.

The 38-year-old claimed he was also “warned” that if he continues filing complaints about the state of the road, they will put up barriers on both ends and restrict all access.

Image: Aberdeenshire Council.

He added: “They are also threatening to barricade the road – well, how are emergency vehicles supposed to get down the road, how are we supposed to get to our house?

“I realise it’s not the most pressing of issues, but that’s been a year now. And all they’ve done is put up a few cones, a road closed sign and then blame it all on the landowner.”

Mr Sharp has also raised concerns over lack of access to snow ploughs and the increased risk of incidents.

As the road is officially classed as closed by the council, he fears insurance companies won’t cover the damages if a car slides into a stump or fall into one of the ditches.

Dispute over who is responsible for the repairs

An Aberdeenshire Council spokesman told The Press and Journal the landowner was contacted to clear the root beds back in May.

However, when we approached Mr Mackie, he said he has never been contacted about the issue.

“We are sort of short of options,” Mr Sharp added. “We can’t seem to get anyone to do anything.

“The council is saying that it’s the landowner, the landowner is just going ‘nah, it’s nothing to do with me’ – so are we just supposed to live with this forevermore?

Storm Arwen road closure
The road remains officially classed as closed by Aberdeenshire Council. Image: Kami Thomson / DC Thomson.

“If they want to argue with the landowner who is paying for it, that’s fine, but surely the road should be repaired first.

“I’m leaving my wife and son on their own as I work offshore, so my main concern now is that obviously winter is coming and the weather will get worse.

“What are we supposed to do if bad snow comes or another storm? I have no idea how they would possibly get the road cleared so are we just supposed to sit and wait?

“It just seems to be an absolute ludicrous situation to be in.”

What did Aberdeenshire Council say?

When we asked Aberdeenshire Council about their possible plans to repair the road, a spokesman said “the specific timescale is unknown” and said this was due to the dispute over “who is responsible to clear and repair it”.

The authority confirmed the road is council maintained and part of the public roadwork, but insisted since the trees came from private ground they are the landowner’s responsibility to clear.

The council has warned drivers to take care due to ‘restricted width’. Image: Kami Thomson / DC Thomson.

A spokesman said: “The landowner will have to remove the trees before Aberdeenshire Council can repair the road surface.

“Access is permitted for residents but they should drive with care. Ideally they should use an alternative route if not requiring direct access to/from the affected section.”