Green light for bridge funding bid

An ambitious £8million project to safeguard the future of the Union Chain Bridge near Horncliffe has moved a step closer.

Tuesday, 11th July 2017, 4:06 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th July 2017, 7:52 am
The Union Bridge, also known as the Union Suspension Bridge or Union Chain Bridge, is a suspension bridge that spans the River Tweed between Horncliffe, Northumberland, England and Fishwick, Berwickshire, Scotland

Northumberland County Council, Scottish Borders Council and the Friends of Union Chain Bridge are working together on a scheme to secure funding to restore the crossing to its former glory.

The internationally significant bridge, constructed in 1820 and spanning the River Tweed on the Anglo-Scottish border requires urgent conservation and engineering repairs to secure its future.

It has been on Historic England’s ‘Heritage at Risk’ Register since 2013.

A funding bid for the restoration is now being prepared for the Heritage Lottery Fund, with a maximum of £5million available towards the bulk of the work.

Northumberland County Council’s cabinet unanimously agreed recommendations to contribute funding over three years towards the scheme at its meeting on Tuesday, with both Northumberland and Scottish Borders Council ultimately contributing towards the project.

Other stakeholders will also be making significant contributions.

Coun Glen Sanderson, cabinet member for environment and local services, said: “The Union Chain Bridge is of international significance but its condition has been of growing concern for a number of years.

“Along with our colleagues in Scotland we are committed to safeguarding its future and status, both as a key transport link and as a contributor to the local tourism economy.”

The bridge itself is a single suspension span of 137m of timber construction supported from wrought iron chains by wrought iron hanger bars.

If these vital repairs are not undertaken, the bridge would ultimately close to vehicles, losing its world status as the oldest surviving suspension bridge carrying traffic, as well as causing serious loss to the local community who would face a lengthy detour to cross the river at Norham, Coldstream or East Ord.

Although work started on the Menai Suspension Bridge first, the Union Bridge designed by Royal Navy officer, Captain Samuel Brown was completed earlier.

Meanwhile, the bridge is scheduled to reopen to traffic on Friday.

It has been closed on weekdays for the past fortnight while detailed investigation work was carried out.

The surveying work aimed to provide a greater understanding of the status and condition of tbe bridge, allowing a more robust bid to be submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund.