Villagers are waiting in anticipation after an assessment found a vital Deeside bridge could be reopened to cars following some strengthening work.
Park Bridge, which links Drumoak and Durris, was closed abruptly in 2019 after a routine inspection revealed major structural issues.
Villagers have been forced to make a 16-mile round diversion via Crathes if they want to drive across the River Dee for the last four years — putting a strain on local businesses and families alike.
Following the closure locals pleaded with Aberdeenshire Council to restore the vital link, petitions were launched and eventually the Park Bridge Action Group (PBAG) was formed out of frustration with the ongoing closure.
In 2021, the council earmarked £750,000 to restore the structure, but only for “active travel”.
While the local authority has been working on projects higher up the priority list, such as replacing Gairnshiel Bridge, PBAG has been pushing for answers and carrying out some work themselves.
The council recently hired an external company to do the structural assessment, which found the bridge is only capable of carrying pedestrians and cyclists in its current state.
However, the report says that the bridge could be reopened to light traffic… if it is strengthened.
What did the structural assessment discover?
Anne Shearer, of PBAG, says the closure of the bridge was a “real heartache” to the villagers.
And now, there is a real concern the 19th-century bridge will never reopen to traffic, despite the new assessment saying it would be able to support cars if the structure was strengthened.
Anne, who worked as a chartered engineer, told the Press and Journal that the assessment found the bridge had not been weakened by the traffic, which at one time had no weight restriction.
Instead, it had deteriorated over a number of years due to a lack of maintenance work.
What has the closure of Park Bridge meant for the community?
More than 1,200 people signed a petition to get the bridge reinstated, and in a council survey, 85% of the community said they wanted it reopened to light traffic.
It was built in 1857 to allow people from Durris to access the railway line in Drumoak and connect the two communities.
Since trains stopped servicing Deeside, villagers still used the bridge to access local amenities, like shops and the post office in Drumoak, while, some businesses and workers serve both villages.
“The closure of the bridge was more than an inconvenience to people,” she explained, “because we now have to take a detour via Crathes — that’s a 16-mile round trip detour.
“Each household that uses the bridge is impacted, I know it costs me around £350 more a year to make the detour.
“So over the four-and-a-half years, that’s a significant amount of money.”
Council to ‘review options’ for Park Bridge
Although Aberdeenshire Council has earmarked money to go towards repair work on the bridge, the work isn’t planned to happen until at least 2025.
As mentioned, the council has focused its attention on other bridges higher up the priority list (like Gairnshiel) and now, the villagers are tentatively waiting for it to be their turn.
However, Anne says the community of Durris and Drumoak are worried the council could “raid” the funds set aside for their bridge and use it on something else in the upcoming budget setting.
An Aberdeenshire Council spokesman explained the local authority is assessing its position — meaning the council is looking into options for remedial work and whether the bridge could be reopened to traffic.
He said: “A structural assessment of Park Bridge has been completed. The assessment found that, in its current condition, the bridge is only capable of carrying pedestrians and cyclists and it remains open to this traffic type.
“The council will review options for remedial works that will consider the level of traffic that can feasibly be accommodated.
“The outcome of the review, including the options, will be reported to the appropriate committee once complete.”