Leask residents angry over bridge proposal

The gap where the Old Mill of Leask bridge once was
The gap where the Old Mill of Leask bridge once was

Residents of a small community near Ellon are stepping up their opposition to proposals NOT to replace a bridge which is their main link with the town.

They maintain it will lead to additional fuel costs, longer journey times, problems with access for emergency servies and more traffic on the Collieston road.

The Mill of Leask Bridge was damaged in storms in December last year and notices were put up saying it would be closed for three weeks. However, it was removed in January by Aberdeenshire Council - without an explanation, according to local householders.

Residents have been issued with questionnaires by the council seeking their views on the proposals, but they claim the deadline for the return of the forms is unrealistic.

They have now responded to the local authority with a letter, a petition and their own economic assessment of the impact of non-replacement of the bridge.

Alan Shand, a joiner who lives less than 100 yards from the bridge, said: “We realised that the council had only handed out half a dozen of these questionnaires, whereas our petition has over 30 signatures from around the area.

“The fact that they were handed out over trades fortnight, when less people are around, might just be a happy co-incidence.”

According to the residents, the council website stated in February that the bridge would be replaced by August 2014, but they heard nothing until last month when the council forms arrived with the proposed non-replacement.

Dave Forbes, a former economist, who has lived in Leask for nearly two years, has compiled an economic assessment to highlight the current and projectedproblems.

He said: “It seems like the council have not had a proper economic consultation and the communication with us has been poor.

“From looking online, you can get Bailey bridges which are bigger than the last bridge we had for just over £20,000. The council said a new bridge would cost £200,000.”

Ellon and District councillor, Richard Thomson said: “There’s no question that the Mill of Leask bridge provided a useful link for those who used it regularly. For that reason, I’d encourage everyone who has been in any way affected by the closure to make their views know as part of the consultation, so that Council Officers can bring forward proposals based on the views of the largest number of people possible.”

Ellon and District councillor, Isobel Davidson said: “The consultation allows the local people to say whether they want the bridge reinstated or not and for their views to be taken into account. It is important that the residents have the access that they need to their homes, but the council have a budget as well.”

Aberdeenshire Council’s head of roads and landscape services, Philip McKay, said: ““Mill of Leask Bridge was closed after it was damaged in the winter

storms of 2012 as it was considered to be unstable and unsafe.

“With over 3,500 miles of road and 1,600 bridges on the network it is important from an asset management point of view to take these opportunities to understand the value of certain structures to local communities.

“At this time no decision has been taken on whether or not to replace the bridge. We are at the stage of gathering the widest possible views on the matter, including taking local advice on who would be affected by any closure and how.

“To that end a letter and questionnaire have been distributed to give local residents and Ward Councillors the opportunity to comment on one proposal for the future of the crossing and I would encourage all those contacted to take the opportunity to inform us of their views.”