Council officials want to unlock love gestures left by couples on a famous Deeside bridge – before the structure breaks.
Dozens of padlocks bearing the names of lovers started appearing on the Falls of Feugh bridge in Banchory last year in an echo of the tradition on the Pont de Arts bridge in Paris.
When the fad took off in the French capital in 2008, almost 2,000 padlocks of all shapes, colours and sizes were locked to the footbridge across the Seine, eventually causing it to buckle under the weight.
Aberdeenshire Council chiefs are now planning to get rid of the Feugh locks on October 16 after receiving complaints from residents amid fears for the survival of their own bridge.
Couples visiting the romantic rural spot will instead be encouraged to take a picture of themselves next to a hand-carved wooden heart sculpture, made by Inverurie-based Graeme Winram of Lenthenty Cabinetmakers.
The sculpture, featuring two salmon leaping into a love heart, has been positioned so the dramatic falls are in the background.
Lovers will be urged to upload their pictures onto social media under #LoveWithoutLocks.
Council bridge and structures manager, Donald MacPherson, said it was only a matter of time before the bridge buckled.
“Feugh footbridge spans the river in a single lead of 100 feet, meaning every supportive element of the design is essential,” he said.
“It was designed and built in the mid-1960s and although it has undergone major repair and refurbishment, the structural design is very much of its time in that it has very little structural redundancy.
“Having several hundred metal padlocks attached to the bridge runs the very serious risk of overloading key structural elements.”
Councillor Moira Ingleby, chairwoman of the Marr Area Committee, said she hoped people will understand why the locks need to be taken down.
Couples can remove their padlocks from the bridge beforehand if they want to keep them.
“The Falls of Feugh footbridge is a very special spot in Deeside, much loved by locals and tourists alike,” she said.
“I think we are being very innovative in this approach to solving the problem of love locks on the bridge and I would hope people respect the decision to remove them.”
The Ponts des Arts bridge in Paris is the name that springs to mind when love locks are mentioned.
But the romantic tradition of etching the name of your loved one onto a padlock and attaching it to a bridge is thought to have begun more than 100 years ago in the Serbian spa town of Vrnjacka Banja.
They gained in popularity through the first decade of the 21st century and are now found worldwide.
In May 2010, Parisian authorities expressed concern over the growing number of love locks on the Pont des Arts.
Many tourists believe this is a longstanding Parisian tradition, not realising the practice only migrated into Paris in late 2008.
In New York, a group of locksport enthusiasts organised to remove locks from the Brooklyn Bridge in 2013.
Deutsche Bahn threatened to have the locks removed from the Hohenzollern Bridge in Cologne.
Across the Atlantic, love padlocks appearing along the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet on Vancouver Island, have caused controversy as some regard them as a distraction from nature.
In Algiers, Algeria love padlocks were added in September 2013 to a bridge that was previously known as the “suicide bridge” in Telemly a district of Algiers.
But an Iman told youths the locks were against Islam so they were removed by night.