A planning application for the major refurbishment and restoration of the historic Union Chain Bridge is set to be approved later this week.
Built in 1820, the grade I-listed bridge connecting England and Scotland across the River Tweed at Horncliffe is the oldest operational suspension bridge in the world still carrying vehicles.
Members of the North Northumberland Local Area Council are being recommended to approve an application for listed building consent for essential conservation and structural repairs.
The biggest change to the bridge’s original appearance, largely retained up until now, will be that the railings will be set back from the chain system and continued across the middle section of the bridge, whereas now they finish shy of the centre allowing an uninterrupted view of the chains down to the deck.
‘This change is regrettable but justified,’ the report explains. ‘In part because the way the chains engage with the railings causes structural stresses and also the need to ensure the safety of pedestrians at the middle section.’
The application covers land in both England (Northumberland County Council) and Scotland (Scottish Borders Council), so applications have been made to both local authorities – ‘coordination has occurred to ensure that the two consents are both implementable with each other’.
In March last year, a first-round National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) bid by Northumberland County Council, Scottish Borders Council, Museums Northumberland and community group Friends of the Union Chain Bridge to restore the famous structure completely, secured a £360,000 development grant.
That meant the £7.3 million project could move into the development, ahead of a second-round submission to the NLHF, which will now be made by the end of May.