One of the most picturesque spots along the River Tweed would be “irreparably damaged” if councillors back a controversial plan recommended by their officers.
Chartered landscape architect James Welch made the claim after being “horrified” to learn that Scottish Borders Council was considering the construction of a temporary bridge on “an iconic piece of local landscape” in Tweedsmuir, the village where he lives.
SBC executive committee meets on Tuesday to decide on alternative access arrangements during repair work to the village’s vital transport link, Carlowse Bridge, with Mr Welch urging committee members to visit the site before any decision is made.
The 220-year-old, B-listed bridge, used by timber lorries for the last 20 years, will have to close during repair work, estimated to take around four months, and much of the village will be cut off during this time.
SBC is committed to providing an alternative access, but council officers are recommending a temporary bridge near Carlowse and this will go before councillors next week.
Many villagers fear the proposal will have serious impact on a renowned beauty spot, and Mr Welch, a Fellow of the Landscape Institute, said: “As a local resident and chartered landscape architect, I have to say that I was horrified when I saw the indicative plan for the temporary works.
“The rocky ‘canyon’ which the River Tweed passes through on either side of the Carlowse Bridge is nothing short of an iconic landscape.
“To suggest that a construction compound and crane pad should be constructed in this area would cause irreparable damage to the landscape fabric of this sensitive location. I do not believe that it could be reinstated without leaving long-term harm to the appearance of the river bank, in one of its most conspicuous and attractive locations.”
He continued: “I am aware that there is a notable change in level from the road to the ground level on the northern side – maybe four metres – and this is likely to require some considerable engineering to produce an acceptable access.
“I have also inspected the trees along the eastern side of the river and it is very clear to me that some considerable tree removal would be required to fit the temporary road through the canopy, which provides an attractive backdrop to the bridge at present.
“I am aware the council has a chartered landscape architect in its expert team and I am sure that he would share my concerns if he inspected the proposed works. It is vital the committee members come and take a closer look before reaching a decision.”
Duncan Davidson, chairman of the Tweedsmuir Community Company, which bought the village’s historic Crook Inn last year, added: “This temporary vehicular option destroys a lovely spot by the historic Carlowse Bridge and yet gives no long-term reduction in the crossing by timber lorries over Carlowse and their hazardous exit onto the A701.”
There will be two other options before councillors when they meet on Tuesday. A footbridge/car park had been proposed, but this has not been recommended by council officers after complaints from local residents that it failed to address a number of issues, including access to the village in case of an emergency.
Officers have also rejected the community’s own bridge proposal, produced by Tweedsmuir Bridge Advisory Group, which was set up six years ago by villagers to protect Carlowse.
Under the bridge group’s plan, a new permanent bridge north of Tweedsmuir would be built. This, in the short term, would provide vehicular access to the village during the Carlowse repairs, but could then be used by logging traffic when Carlowse Bridge is reopened. The plan also includes a new, safer access on to the A701.
Paul Greaves, a spokesman for the group, said: “We’re disappointed that council officers have opted for the temporary vehicular access and are extremely worried about the impact this will have on what is a truly beautiful spot. We vehemently dispute the council officers’ figures for our option, which are over £500,000, and hope councillors reject the temporary plan and go with the community proposal, which is the only one that has any long-term benefits.”