Brakes could be put on bid for new bridge over River Dee until AWPR complete

A review into plans for a new bridge over the River Dee could be halted until after the new Aberdeen bypass is open.

Council chiefs unveiled three designs last year, all of which retained the 16th-century Bridge of Dee for pedestrians and cyclists.

One option – known as concept 6 – would involve a dual carriageway link road between Garthdee Road and the A90 Aberdeen to Dundee route.

Concept 6B contains every element of concept 6, with the addition of a new link road between Inchgarth Road and the A93 North Deeside Road.

And Concept 7, which the local authority’s SNP group supports, would include a new arch crossing alongside the existing Bridge of Dee.

An appraisal of the three options was due to go before councillors today.

They will be asked to agree that a review of the concepts under consideration should be carried out at a “suitable period” after the opening of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR).

A report, by the council’s senior engineer Ken Neil, said: “The AWPR is due to open in late 2017 and the predicted impact of this scheme on the existing road network in the Bridge of Dee has been modelled and taken into account during the appraisal process.

“Overall, a review at the post AWPR stage will improve the accuracy of the assessment and provide robust base line information to assist the decision making process.

“A timescale of this review of post AWPR traffic patterns will be dependent on how long it takes new traffic patterns to become established and stabilise, and any decision on this would be based on findings from the AWPR monitoring process.”

Mr Neil said option 7 appears, on balance, to have the support of the public.

“While the link road has merits in its own right, and appears to have some public support it is not an essential component of works required to address capacity issues in the Bridge of Dee area,” he said.

“Bridge options which involve works in the channel of the River Dee are less favourable environmentally and present greater technical challenges than bridge options which do not require works in the channel of the Dee.

“There is, on balance, public support for concept 7, whereas there is, on balance, public opposition to concepts 6 and 6B.

“In terms of cumulative environmental impact, concept 7 is considered to perform marginally more favourably than concepts 6 and 6B.”

The council papers also reveal option 6 could cost between £62 million and £86m, option 6B £71m to £91m and option 7 £71m to £89m.

The SNP has pledged to build a new bridge over the Dee within the next five years if returned in May’s elections.

Party group leader Cllr Stephen Flynn said he will push officers to complete the review sooner.

He said: “We need to commit ourselves to building a new bridge. The report itself states a river crossing is strategically important.

“We can’t dither and delay, we will seek to get the team to speed up the review process.”

Historic Environment Scotland has indicated that it recognises the need for improvements in road network capacity in the Bridge of Dee and would not object to concept 7 if there is a “clear rationale” to support the decision.

The group has said it would support a competition to seek bridge designs.

Meanwhile, councillors will also be urged not to go forward with a policy on Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) over-provision. Old Aberdeen Community Council previously claimed areas such as the Spital and Orchard Street are being taken over by HMOs.

It called on the city council to limit the concentration of such properties.

A report due to go before councillors today, said there are a total of 1,185 HMOs in the city with a further 191 applications pending. There are 115,529 residential properties in the city which means 1.02% are HMOs.

Four wards have a higher than average percentage including Tillydrone/Seaton/Old Aberdeen where the figure is 3.30%.

The report by Neil Carnegie, the council’s communities and housing area manager, said: “The introduction of an HMO over-provision policy would lead to additional work for the HMO unit in providing information regarding the number of HMOs licensed in the designated area, and by officers in licensing and committee services in view of the increase in applications that will be placed before the committee.”

A number of community councils and groups have responded to a consultation on the policy.

Old Aberdeen Heritage Society, which backs a 10% threshold , said: “In the light of the foregoing, and in view of the acknowledged high concentration of HMOs in various parts of the city, there can be no justification for further delay in implementing an over-provision policy.”