Councillors have agreed to continue to open the Bervie Braes Road during the summer, potentially extending opening if conditions allow.
The local community successfully campaigned for the reopening of the road after it was closed following major landslips in 2009.
It is currently open one-way from April until October, to address concerns over the economic impact on businesses and tourism caused by the closure. Works associated with the seasonal opening will cost in the region of £300,000.
Aberdeenshire Council’s Policy and Resources Committee reviewed the seasonal opening arrangements last week.
Councillors heard from Head of Roads and Landscape Services, Philip McKay, who recommended existing arrangements allowing for seasonal reopening of the road in one direction, subject to restrictions, remain in place.
Members also considered a recommendation that the opening period could be extended at either end of the summer season, once a barrier to close the road was in place and assessment of weather conditions indicated it would be safe to do so.
Douglas Samways, chairman of Stonehaven Town Partnership, spoke at the meeting and questioned the contents and conclusions of a report commissioned to assess the economic value of reopening the road.
He described the measures proposed by the council as an “overreaction,” and criticised the appearance of barriers protecting road users from minor slippages on the slopes, saying they did not look welcoming to visitors.
He asked the committee to review the measures taken in response to the risk from the Bervie Braes, “balanced properly with the economic advantages,” in consultation with the community and to think again about the seasonal reopening of the road.
Mr McKay told councillors road users’ safety was paramount. Independent analysis had shown that the embankment was susceptible to both minor and major landslips, with the latter having the potential to impact significantly on the road.
The committee asked for clarification on the technical measures in place to prevent and monitor potential landslips and whether it was possible to keep the road open all year round.
They heard that to fully stablise the slope would mean significant spending on further measures - previously estimated to cost in the region of £3.5million - and without those in place, for the moment, there were still safety risks for road users if there was year-round opening.
Councillors heard that although there was pressure from the community to reopen the road on a year-round basis, risks previously identified remained and it was unlikely funding could be found to carry out further stabilisation works.
Stabilisation work to date had cost around £3.1million, not including the measures to allow seasonal reopening.
The committee agreed to continue with existing seasonal arrangements and to the extension of the opening period for the road at either end of the season, subject to favourable weather and slope conditions.