The next funding bid has been made to help restore the historic Union Chain Bridge - and if successful, major works will start early next year.
Built in 1820, the Union Chain Bridge is the oldest operational suspension bridge in the world still carrying vehicles, and through securing National Lottery Heritage Fund support, it is anticipated that the bridge project can also deliver numerous cultural, heritage, educational and community benefits.
In March 2018, a first round National Lottery Heritage Fund bid by Northumberland County Council, Scottish Borders Council, Museums Northumberland and Friends of the Union Chain Bridge to restore the famous structure, secured a £360,000 development grant.
Detailed investigations to assess the condition of every element of the bridge have been undertaken to determine how approach the conservation and repair works.
This work is now complete and a second round bid to the NLHF for £3.14m grant funding to support the implementation of the £8.1m ‘delivery phase’, has been made. A decision on the bid is expected in September 2019. Scottish Borders Council and Northumberland County Council have committed match funding totalling £3.4m towards the scheme, with fundraising activities continuing by The Friends of Union Chain Bridge.
Councillor Glen Sanderson, cabinet member for environment and local services with Northumberland County Council, said: “We’ve been working tirelessly over the past two years to develop this ambitious project and are delighted to have submitted an extremely strong second round submission.
“What’s abundantly clear is how loved this bridge is, not just locally, but nationally and internationally and we’ve had support from across the world as we’ve worked to get to this point.
“It really shows the close working between ourselves, Museums Northumberland, the Friends of Union Chain Bridge and our colleagues in Scottish Borders Council - making it a very exciting and substantial cross-border, cross-council venture.
Councillor Gordon Edgar, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for roads and infrastructure, said: “This is a real partnership project and I am very pleased with the final submission made to the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
“If successful, this project will conserve and raise awareness of the internationally significant Union Chain Bridge, and celebrate its historical and engineering importance for its landmark 200th anniversary.”
Robert Hunter, chair of the Friends of the Union Chain Bridge, said: “The support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund is crucial for this project to succeed.
“The bridge partners have worked incredibly hard to come up with a really compelling programme of restoration and learning, that will provide tremendous opportunities for the local and wider communities to benefit from this inspirational project.
“The building of the Union Chain Bridge 200 years ago was a ground-breaking engineering achievement and it is vital that we save this much loved bridge for future generations.”
Rowan Brown, chief executive of Museums Northumberland, said: “We’re delighted to be working with our local authority partners and the Friends of the Union Chain Bridge to preserve and celebrate this incredible heritage monument and, subject to the positive outcome of our application, use it as the catalyst for embedding STEM and heritage skills across our communities on both sides of the border.”