The coming year will be a crucial one for hopes of restoring the historic Union Chain Bridge in time for its bicentenary in 2020.
That is the view of the Friends of Union Chain Bridge group, as they embark on their bid to raise the estimated £5 million cost.
The restoration fund has already got off to a magnificent start with Northumberland County Council pledging £500,000 and Scottish Borders Council setting aside £550,000.
And discussions are taking place with Historic Scotland and Historic England with the aim of raising further funds.
As this year progresses a substantial role of the Friends of Union Chain Bridge will involve raising public awareness to the heritage, architecture and international importance of Bridge and ascertaining support for the restoration and heritage activities project.
They are researching the many and diverse aspects of the bridge to establish themes for heritage activities to involve local people, community organisations, schools and universities. Through exhibitions and talks at a variety of venues, they will share these ideas and ask people to say which activities would be of interest.
Robert Hunter, chairman of the Friends of the Union Chain Bridge, explained: “2016 will be a crucial year for the restoration of Chain Bridge. A first stage Heritage Lottery application is currently being completed.
“The Friends continue to work with all interested parties including Northumberland County Council, Scottish Borders Council and heritage bodies to raise the profile of this wonderful, historic bridge. The firm aim is to complete the restoration of the bridge by its Bicentenary in 2020.
“We would be delighted to hear from anyone who wants to get involved with this project and become a friend of the Union Chain Bridge.”
At present, the Friends have a low key but crucial role. They have been holding various fundraising events such as last November’s Gala Dinner at nearby Paxton House which raised £4.000.
The membership in excess of 400, some from overseas, demonstrates the community affection for and commitment to the long term future of the bridge.
The Category A listed building in Scotland and the Grade I listed building in England is jointly owned by Scottish Borders Council and Northumberland County Council, which will be leading the restoration project.
Consult Robinson, who have previously worked on the hugely successful Flodden 500 project, have been appointed to co-ordinate information, including the cost of the project in order that a bid can be made to the Heritage Lottery Fund.
For more information visit www.unionbridgefriends.com