Bervie Braes stabilisation project under threat due to cash fears

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WORK to stabilise dangerous cliffs in Stonehaven has stalled after tenders for the project came in much higher than anticipated.

Aberdeenshire Council had pledged £1 million towards the Bervie Braes scheme, with the Scottish Government providing £2 million.

But the local authority has now said that the project costs would be “significantly higher than expected” and that it can not afford any extra cash.

A council spokesman said the authority had now turned to the Scottish Government for guidance.

He said: “Tenders for the Stonehaven project have come in significantly higher than expected and Aberdeenshire Council has written to Finance Secretary John Swinney for further guidance.

“In the current financial climate Aberdeenshire Council cannot commit to additional expenditure for which there is no budget.”

The spokesman said that development work on the plans was continuing and the deadline for tenders had passed.

He added: “In the meantime, further consideration is being given to the financial implications of the Bervie Braes scheme based on the outcome of the tendering process.”

Stonehaven and Lower Deeside councillor Peter Bellarby said “I am very disappointed that the cost to carry out stabilisation of the Braes is so much higher than expected.

“There is an urgent need for the work to be carried out so I do urge the Scottish Government to provide money to fill the funding gap. We need the work carried out this year so that the threat of a further collapse is avoided.”

Fellow ward councillor Wendy Agnew also said she thought the government should find the money to fill the gap: “I don’t know if they will, but they should because it was they who cut our grant. We cannot get blood out of a stone, we can’t just find money from no where. “I think they have to put money towards it. We can’t keep on stalling, putting it back a year because the cost is just going to go up. We thought we knew the price, we thought we had the money and then we are hit with this. It is not good news at all.

“I don’t imagine the residents living beneath the braes are happy at all at this news, and I wouldn’t blame them. We haven’t been told that the work won’t go ahead, just that there is a funding gap - I haven’t heard how much that is. I think John Swinney needs to dig deep into his pockets and give us the money.”

Local councillor Graeme Clark said he was “very disappointed” by the further delay.

“Both the council and the government are struggling for money just now, there is not a lot to pay it with. We’ve been trying to get everything in place so that once we get the go ahead the contractors can get in there as soon as possible - the sooner, the better.

“I have spoken to a lot of people below the braes who are desperate to get the work done whether they signed the waivers or not - everybody wants the work to go ahead.”

Stonehaven and District Community Council chairman David Fleming said: “I hope the Scottish Government treats this in a non party political stance and decides before the election to help with this budget.

“It is unfortunate that Aberdeenshire Council has only found out at this late stage that they have this difficulty and it therefore means it will be a month before the relevant committee can reconsider the tenders.”

Councillors had been due to take a decision on whether the project would go ahead at this month’s meeting of the policy and resources committee, but discussions have now been postponed until June.

There was already a question mark over the future of the work, as some of the residents underneath the braes had refused to sign liability waivers required by the council.