A masonry bridge expert has questioned the way Scottish Borders Council is planning to rebuild a 230-year-old B-listed bridge in Tweedsmuir.
Dr Adrienn Tomor, of the West of England University in Bristol, claims what is proposed is not “a recommended reinforcement technique” and will change the nature of the structure in that it will no longer function as a masonry arch bridge.
Now Tweedsmuir Bridge Advisory Group (TBAG), set up to protect the crossing seven years ago, is calling for the work to be referred to Scottish Government ministers before it starts later this month.
The group, who sought Dr Tomor’s views on the council work, also wrote to Historic Scotland (HS) about their concerns. But a HS spokesman said that any decision to refer to Scottish ministers for listed building consent was a matter for the planning authority.
SBC is spending nearly £600,000 on the Carlowse Bridge rebuild and providing a temporary bridge to enable residents access in and out of the village while the work is being done.
But the project has been hugely controversial, with a community plan to build a permanent crossing north of the village rejected by councillors in February.
TBAG member Rod Sibbald said: “Whilst the community is grateful for the investment in Tweedsmuir and Scottish Borders Council’s recognition that Carlowse Bridge has suffered significant damage over the years, there is serious concern over the lack of regard for the heritage of this beautiful B-listed structure. The work planned by Scottish Borders Council is less of a repair and more of a rebuild.
“The Historic Scotland guidelines for repairing a listed structure state, ‘In assessing an application for listed building consent, the planning authority is required to have special regard to the desirability of preserving the building, or its setting, or any features of special architectural or historic interest which it possesses’.
“The fact that the planned works involve large amounts of concrete and are not in keeping with the ‘features of special architectural or historic interest’ which, in this case, is the random rubble build, is very worrying.”
Asked to comment on the group’s concerns, a Scottish Borders Council spokesperson said: “A conservation specialist within our Built and Natural Heritage team was consulted about the proposed works at Carlowse Bridge. It was considered that the repair works would not affect the character or appearance of the structure, and as a result would not require a formal Listed Building Consent application, as noted in Historic Scotland’s SHEP (Scottish Historic Environment Policy).
“This approach has been taken on a number of occasions previously in respect of road bridges. The Built and Natural Heritage team will continue to liaise with the project team as work progresses to ensure that the character of the bridge is retained.
“The council also considered a report from the Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA) on masonry arch bridges which details that the repair technique being used by the council is a recognised one.
“A report was presented to the council’s environment and infrastructure committee last year, which highlighted to councillors the extent and nature of the proposed repairs to the bridge.
“The repair works are advancing well, with the temporary bridge due to be installed at the start of August. The council will continue to communicate with the local community, with regular updates available via a dedicated page on SBC’s website – www.scotborders.gov.uk/carlowsbridge.”