South Scotland

Union Chain Bridge's £5.6m makeover plans progress

Union Chain Bridge Image copyright Friends of the Union Chain Bridge
Image caption The bridge, which is nearly 200 years old, crosses the Tweed from Berwickshire to Northumberland

A bridge between Scotland and England is in line for a £5.6m overhaul to mark the 200th anniversary of its opening.

The Union Chain Bridge crosses the River Tweed from Fishwick in Berwickshire to Horncliffe in Northumberland.

When it was officially opened in 1820, it was the longest wrought iron suspension bridge in the world.

However, it has become structurally unsafe and can only be accessed by one light vehicle at a time.

Scottish Borders Council and Northumberland County Council are now working up a project to refurbish the bridge.

Image copyright Friends of the Union Chain Bridge
Image caption A report said without investment the bridge would go into "managed decline"

They have both committed £550,000 to seek to pull in Heritage Lottery Funding towards the scheme.

The current estimate for the project sits at just over £5.6m which includes refurbishment along with community activities and visitor infrastructure associated with the bridge.

A first phase application for funding had been planned last year, however it will now not take place until April this year.

Despite the delay, a report to Scottish Borders Council said time had not been lost in the overall programme and could still meet its 2020 completion goal.

Image copyright Friends of the Union Chain Bridge
Image caption It is hoped the structure could become a major visitor attraction

Ongoing revenue costs for the scheme have not been determined so far.

A condition of HLF support would be for the bridge to be maintained to a high quality for 10 years after any funding was secured.

Councillors have been warned that failure to intervene could risk future closure of the bridge and a period of "managed decline".

A report said the investment could not only secure the bridge's long term future but also turn it into an "important visitor attraction".

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