Community proposal is bridge too far for council

Carlows Bridge at Tweedsmuir - a Timber transport vehicle crossing the bridge on 19.4.11
Carlows Bridge at Tweedsmuir - a Timber transport vehicle crossing the bridge on 19.4.11

Tweedsmuir residents have lost their battle to remove logging lorries from a 228-year-old, B-listed bridge.

The council’s executive committee voted on Tuesday to erect a temporary bridge close to Carlowse Bridge in the village when the historic crossing is closed for repairs, rejecting a community plan for a new permanent structure that campaigners claim could have taken all timber traffic off the old bridge.

Rod Sibbald, a spokesman for Tweedsmuir Bridge Advisory Group (TBAG), who came up with the community proposal, said: “Although TBAG recognises the timber industry as an important part of the local economy, it also feels that it is not in the interest of the public purse nor the preservation of this beautiful old bridge to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on repairing the bridge and providing alternative access, and then continue letting 40-tonne vehicles start the deterioration all over again.”

Paul Greaves, secretary of the Upper Tweed Community Council and also a member of the bridge group, added: “When the bridge is closed, half the village is cut off, so we’re glad the council is providing a vehicular access and not the footbridge option that was also on the table.

“But the council has, in effect, condemned the bridge, and village, to the effects of timber traffic for years to come, and the taxpayer will continue to pick up the tab for road maintenance and any future repairs on Carlowse.”

Councillor Ron Smith said that “in a perfect world” the community solution would offer long-term benefits, but added that the council could not stop logging vehicles using the repaired bridge, and that there were no assurances over who would pick up the tab for maintaining the community-proposed alternative access road and bridge in the longer term.

Members of the committee were also told that the damage to the historic bridge was not largely caused by its use by heavy goods vehicles, rather by “weathering” and “freeze-thaw” effects.

Councillors also heard that the local authority’s landscape architect believed the proposal for temporary access over the river close to the existing bridge was the “preferred option” in environmental terms.

A motion to delay the decision in order to visit Tweedsmuir split the committee, with the decision made on the casting vote of council leader David Parker.

Councillor Catriona Bhatia also called for both vehicular bridge options to be taken forward to the initial tendering process, but this was defeated by nine votes to five in the final decision.