A weight limit on a crumbling listed bridge could have a “grave effect” on Cawdor Castle visitor numbers and the surrounding area’s economy, according to community leaders.
Highland Council has suggested a lengthy public consultation process will mean the restriction is delayed beyond the peak summer months.
But that has not reassured locals because the repairs could take two years.
The A-listed White Bridge, spanning the River Nairn, on the B9090 Loch Flemington-Nairn road, is one the oldest maintained by the council.
The authority has promised to consult on its intention to introduce an 18-tonne limit, which would minimise the number of heavy-axle vehicles crossing the 1754-built bridge. The only exemption would be emergency service vehicles.
The humped bridge carries single file traffic in both directions, subject to traffic signals. The council says the weight limit was recommended in a recent structural assessment.
“The bridge’s condition is deteriorating and, until we are able to identify and be in a position to allocate significant amounts of funding required for repair, the bridge needs to be protected,” a council spokeswoman said.
Culloden and Ardersier councillor Roddy Balfour said: “If the council’s structural engineer David MacKenzie says the bridge is unsound beyond a certain weight level, that’s it. It must be preserved.
“But the economic situation is pretty crucial to the village and to the whole community because it’s about jobs.
“It’s a grave situation for Cawdor Castle because it relies very much on the tourist buses coming to keep the local economy alive. Conversely, and also to enhance the local economy, is the timber (from the estate) going out, and the timber lorries were way over the weight limit.”
Mr Balfour hopes to secure a bailey bridge arrangement alongside the existing bridge as a temporary measure to carry heavy traffic.
Cawdor and West Nairnshire Community Council secretary Jenifer (CORRECT) Walker said: “Whilst relieved that this restriction will not be implemented immediately, we’re still worried about the impact on alternative routes.
“We hope the council will present the facts at a public meeting next Tuesday (7.30pm at Cawdor Community Centre) and answer the concerns.
The council is reviewing alternative bridging locations close to the White Bridge which includes identifying the necessary funding for a temporary replacement.
No-one was available for comment yesterday at Cawdor Castle.