The future of the twin towns of Banff and Macduff may be safeguarded by replacing a historic bridge with a new £5million crossing.
Banff Bridge is used by vehicles more than 12,000 times every day with up to 180 pedestrians also crossing on a daily basis.
The 400ft span, built in 1779, is a vital arterial route across the River Deveron and the main economic link between the neighbouring towns.
The historic bridge has long been branded “not fit for purpose” and now Aberdeenshire Council has published the findings of an appraisal which could lead to the creation of a new crossing.
Transport consultants Aecom were appointed two years ago to conduct a study and public consultation about the future of the seven-arched sandstone structure which forms part of the A98 Fochabers to Fraserburgh route.
The bridge – which provides the only crossing of the Deveron for nine miles – is a Category A-listed structure and is near the region’s famous Duff House tourist attraction.
Around 800 public responses to the consultation were received and covered a range of issues including the economic impact of diversions, flooding and pedestrian safety.
It is estimated that the 30-mile diversion which would be required in the event of a “prolonged” closure of up to a year would cost the local economy up to £33million.
The bridge also carries public utilities including communications cables and gas pipes.
In total eight options will be presented to local councillors when they meet tomorrow for the first discussions on the future of the bridge.
Council infrastructure bosses have already recommended that three options – widening the pavements and adding traffic lights, creating a new low-level pedestrian bridge or building a £27.million town bypass – be scrapped.
Instead it is understood the most likely options are building a new high-level pedestrian and cycle bridge next to the historic crossing, or building an entirely new road bridge at a cost of £4.9million.
The proposal to build a new road crossing was universally popular in the public consultation and received 100% positive feedback.
It would be built upstream of the existing crossing which could then be used for pedestrian and cycle use.
In his report to the Banff and Buchan area committee, Aberdeenshire’s infrastructure director Stephen Archer said: “Banff Bridge is an essential element in terms of the local economy and daily life within the two towns of Banff and Macduff, and the immediate surrounding area.
“It provides access to employment and facilitates the many hundreds of daily commuter trips between the towns, as well as the regional public transport and logistics networks.”
Last night Banff councillor John Cox, chairman of the committee, welcomed the report.
“There is a massive social and economic damage if the bridge was closed for a prolonged time,” Mr Cox said. “The practical solutions – building a high-level footbridge or a new road bridge – offer value for money.
“The bridge has a strategic importance for the whole coast, from Inverness to Fraserburgh.”
Macduff councillor Mark Findlater added: “The bridge itself in my opinion is not fit for purpose in the modern day.
“Structurally it’s sound – engineers say it’ll go another 100 years – but it was built for carriages. I want the safety of pedestrians to be paramount.”
Members of the Banff and Buchan area committee have been asked to comment on the options and refer the report to the region’s infrastructure committee.