CONGREGATION members of a Stonehaven church are demanding a redesign of the stepped access to the refurbished White Bridge – and have produced drawings showing how it could be done with ramps.
The elegant wrought iron bridge over the River Carron has become the subject of controversy thanks to the increased height at which the structure will be reinstated and the additional steps proposed to reach it.
Aberdeenshire Council have listed building permission for the refurbishment works to the bridge.
But at this week’s meeting of Stonehaven and District Council, held in the former courtroom, members of St James’ Church put the bridge design in the dock.
Edward Dickens read a statement from the application report saying an equalites impact assessment was not needed as the proposals were ”not considered to give rise to any differential impacts on those with protected characteristics.”
Mr Dickens said he doubted if mothers with buggies would be able to go up the stairs.
He added: ”We have been told you can go to the next bridge but that is quite a walk, especially if you have a buggy or a wheelchair or are carrying shopping.”
David Fleming said they were unhappy about the impact on access to the Church and feared for residents at Abbeyfield who could become isolated.
He said there was confusion surrounding the consultation, as many people had believed there was going to be a ramp.
He also disputed the facts of the engineering details saying the 15 steps meant the increase in height was going to be two metres, not one as indicated.
The vestry members said they had commissioned their drawing, because both the Council and the contractors said a ramped access was impossible. They challenged the Aberdeenshire Councillors present to accept it was indeed a possibility
Clearly prepared for the questions raised, Councillor Dennis Robertson had an email response from the project engineer – this was read out loud.
The first point stated: ”The Church is category A listed, therefore views and aesthetics surrounding the church have to be preserved.”
This produced snorts of derision from the church members present.
And, with Mr Fleming emphatically refusing to accept the explanation, Mr Robertson offered to arrange a meeting between both sets of engineers, to discuss the design detail and produce a report – an outcome that Mr Fleming said he was ‘very happy’ with.
The full details of the granted permission for the bridge can be viewed here.
If you would like to support the St James’ vestry in their request for ramps to reach the bridge, there is a petition available for signature at the back of the Church.