Essential works to future-proof the more than 240-year-old Banff Bridge have commenced this week.
The seven-arched, A-listed structure links the communities of Macduff and Banff across the River Deveron, but is in dire need of repairs due to successive river spates.
Workers have this week started placing rock “armour” around the bridge piers, to reinstate and strengthen the existing scour protection.
It’s part of a £3 million programme of improvements for the bridge.
The council says the current works will run into late February, but the bridge will remain open to traffic and pedestrians for the duration.
What exactly is being done right now?
Philip McKay, head of roads and infrastructure at Aberdeenshire Council said the local authority must act now to make sure Banff Bridge’s foundations are not exposed in the future.
Diggers have been brought in as part of the current works to bring the level of protection for the foundations back to the level it was 12 years ago.
Mr McKay explained: “Managing Banff Bridge, which is over 240 years old, requires extensive monitoring to ensure that changes to the river morphology do not undermine the original foundations.
“As these foundations comprise short timber piles it is especially important that the bed of the rivers is managed proactively to ensure the foundations do not become exposed.
“Works are about to commence this month to place additional rock armour in the river bed to restore the protection to the 2010 level.”
A long history of river damage
Although the current issues have come about as a result of successive spates of the River Deveron in recent years, the river has long caused problems in the area.
The Banff Bridge we have today was designed by English engineer John Smeaton, and was completed on June 17 1780 after eight years of work for a price of £9,000, or around £1,652,000 in today’s money.
It was built after the previous bridge, which opened in 1765, was washed away on September 16 1768.
On that day, the Deveron rose 14 feet above its normal level.
In 1881, work was done to widen Mr Smeaton’s 1780 bridge by four feet on either side to deal with the increased volume of traffic.
Plans for the future
Mr McKay said once the rock armour works on the foundations are done, the council will start on further efforts to keep the bridge standing in the face of river spates and the impacts of climate change.
He added: “Thereafter a comprehensive scheme to develop a major retrofit of the bridge foundations will be brought forward.
“This will provide long-term protection to this important Grade A listed heritage structure, taking into account the increased risk to bridge foundations from climate change with respect to rising sea levels and larger river spates on the Deveron.
“The scoping and design of this work is scheduled for 2022 with the works themselves intended to be implemented in 2023 into 2024.”