Heavy goods vehicle drivers have been urged to avoid using a shortcut on a major route between Deeside and Speyside, over fears it could permanently damage an 18th-century bridge.
The A97 Dinnet to Strathdon road will be shut for two weeks between Tillypronie and Tom Dubh from Monday, to allow for vital resurfacing and drainage works.
During the closure of the two and a half miles of road, traffic will be directed towards a 34-mile diversion east via Alford, adding around an hour onto journeys.
Concerns have now been raised that drivers of HGVs will instead be tempted to take the alternative route between Deeside and Speyside, on the A939 Ballater to Tomintoul road, which crosses the historic Gairnshiel Bridge.
The A-listed river crossing has an 18-tonne weight limit, and is due for replacement because it has been beset with problems for years due to heavy loads causing damage to the crumbling structure.
Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside councillor Geva Blacket, who successfully campaigned for an alternative bridge to be built, has pleaded with HGV drivers to follow the official diversion over concerns it could lead to Gairnshiel Bridge bring shut to all traffic permanently.
She said: “I totally understand this diversion is more than a nuisance to HGV drivers, it is time and money too – but I am pleading with them not to be tempted to use the A939 because the Gairnshiel Bridge just won’t be able to cope with the added weight.
“If the bridge structure is undermined, the council may have to remove it from use altogether, which means that until the new bridge is built and opened in 2022, everyone will have to go around the A97 which will impact hugely on businesses, tourists and locals alike in the region.
“The council CCTV will catch anyone abusing the bridge, and then they will hear from the council and may well be prosecuted, but it may be too late by then for that beautiful bridge and the local economy.”