Council pledges £550,000 to Union Bridge restoration

Trophies on display at the Jim Clark showroom
Trophies on display at the Jim Clark showroom

Scottish Borders Council has agreed to contribute £550,000 towards the restoration of the historic Union Chain Bridge between Fishwick and Horncliffe.

That allocation in the local authority’s capital spending plan, confirmed on Thursday, matches a similar cash commitment from Northumberland County Council.

Up to now, SBC has made no financial provision for a project which would see the structure – which requires a new suspension hanger system and upgraded parapets – fully restored in time for its 200th anniversary in 2020.

But with the 50-50 arrangement in place, the way is clear for Northumberland, in its role as lead authority, to secure the required balance of some £3m from external funding sources, including the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Also included in SBC’s four year capital programme is £1.6m which represents half the cost of building a new station and car parking facilities at Reston, with the balance due to be met by the Scottish Government’s Scottish Stations Fund.

A further £500,000 has been earmarked in 2018/19 for a new Jim Clark Museum on the current site of the legendary racing driver’s memorial room in Duns.

On Thursday, there was only one challenge to SBC capital plans – a bid by Councillor Michelle Ballantyne, leader of the Conservative group to remove the allocation of £6m, which includes a contribution of £2.5m from the Scottish Government, to build a visitor centre for the Great Tapestry of Scotland at Tweedbank.

When she rose to her feet to contest its inclusion, she was interrupted by Councillor Jim Brown, the deputy convener who was chairing the meeting.

After a brief top table discussion, Mrs Ballantyne was advised by Jenny Wilkinson, clerk to the council, that the decision to support the tapestry project – and to make financial provision for it in the capital plan – had been made by the council on December 18.

As six months had not elapsed since that decision, it would require standing orders to be suspended for the issue to be revisited.

And when Mrs Ballantyne moved for that suspension, her motion was defeated by 19 votes to 11. Apart from the nine Conservative councillors, two Hawick Independents – Stuart Marshall and Watson McAteer – supported the motion.

The capital programme for major projects – worth £58m in 2015/16, £134m over the next three years and £352m over the next ten years – was thus approved with no amendments.