Work to repair beleaguered Banff Harbour will resume within days after a contract dispute held up the project for more than a month.
Lochshell Ltd downed tools in June after discovering the crumbing 17th century port was in a worse condition than first thought.
The £1.3 million scheme remained at a standstill for several weeks, with harbour users concerned the historic boatyard could suffer irreparable damage if left in a state of disarray over the winter.
They are now pleading for efforts to be redoubled to make sure the project is completed by then.
Works ‘critical’ for future of Banff Harbour
Aberdeenshire Council today confirmed that, though talks with Lochshell are still continuing, officers expect the firm to resume the upgrade within days.
But the authority has been unable to indicate when the work might now be finished.
A spokesman said: “Discussions with the contractor are ongoing and we anticipate they will make a return to work this week to temporarily seal the outer face of the pier.
“Thereafter the contractor will move on to the remaining works at the harbour.
“Unfortunately, it is likely that the completion of the works will slip beyond the original target date, however at this time it is not possible to be specific.
“We will continue to work with the contractor to minimise any programme overrun.
“We would again like to reassure all harbour users that our focus remains on resuming these critical works as soon as possible and we will be communicating directly with them in due course to address any concerns they have.”
It remains unclear how the spat with Lochshell was resolved, and whether it had any financial implications to the council.
Parts of a crumbling wall came loose and crashed into the sea in the spring of 2017 following freak storms, and long-awaited restoration work got under way this spring.
As well as reinstating the damaged railway jetty, Wick-based Lochshell was tasked with strengthening the east pier as part of the deal.
The company was approached for comment on the latest development.
Our video filmed last month shows the abandoned scene at Banff Harbour –
‘Time is of the essence’
Harbour user Phil Hemsley previously told us he was worried Banff Harbour could be “finished” if the damaged pier isn’t fixed by the time storms sweep in later this year.
The return of workers to the port has done little to ease his concerns.
Phil said: “I have had a look at the abandoned works and the water has been running in and out of the damaged pier over the last five weeks.
“It’s in a very poor condition.
“Time really is of the essence now, it’s been a shambles and we really need the harbour properly repaired.
“The past month was prime time to get work done, with very little chance of any weather disruption.
“It’s been a disaster. It’s we harbour users who are reaping the non-benefits of it, and we aren’t even being informed about what’s happening.”
Councillor to push for more answers
The harbour dates back to 1625 and about 30 small boats still fish out of it almost 400 years later, though most berths are occupied by pleasure craft.
Work was originally slated to begin at the start of the year and finish in April, but it has been repeatedly knocked back.
Dozens of boats remain stuck in the harbour until the project concludes.
Chairman of the Banff Harbour Advisory Committee, councillor John Cox, vowed to continue to press the local authority for more answers on the hold-up.
He said: “I won’t feel any relief until I know exactly how much time we have lost.”