Union Chain Bridge plans are approved

Chain Bridge (Union Chain Suspension Bridge) spanning the Tweed, and the border between England and Scotland at Horncliffe
Chain Bridge (Union Chain Suspension Bridge) spanning the Tweed, and the border between England and Scotland at Horncliffe

Planning permission for improvement works to the Union Chain Bridge have been approved by both Scottish and English authorities.

The bridge, which spans the River Tweed at Horncliffe, connecting the Scottish Borders and Northumberland, is due for a £7.3m facelift thanks to a partnership between Scottish Borders Council, Northumberland County Council and the Friends of Union Bridge community group.

The wrought-iron structure was built in 1820, and at the time was the longest single-span iron suspension bridge in the world.

Today, the grade I-listed structure is the oldest operational suspension bridge in the world still carrying vehicles.

Scottish Borders Council approved planning permission for the works on Wednesday, March 20, while Northumberland County Council approved planning permission for their side of the bridge the following day.

The final piece of the puzzle is to secure more funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which has so far provided a £360,000 development grant to the two authorities.

A second joint funding bid is expected to go the National lottery in May of this year, and having planning permission already in place will form a key part of the bid.

Selkirkshire councillor Gordon Edgar, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for roads and infrastructure, said: “A massive amount of work has already been undertaken and over the next three months we expect to put the finishing touches to the bid documents, and to have secured all of the necessary consents from statutory bodies to enable the works to go ahead.

“This will ensure we are able to present the strongest possible application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund to ensure we have the best possible chance of securing a successful round two pass.

“While the round two application will now be submitted in late May 2019, this will not have a major impact on the planned timing of the restoration works, which are programmed to get underway in February next year.”

Up until 1885 a toll had to be paid to cross the bridge, which necessitated having toll-houses at both ends of the bridge.

The Scottish toll-house sold whiskey and conducted wedding ceremonies, while the English toll-house was demolished in 1955.

The bridge was designed by former Royal Navy captain Samuel Brown, whose patented chain-link system was pioneering at the time it was developed and the Union Bridge is one of the few remaining structures with the original chains intact.

Robbie Hunter, chair of the friends of Union Chain Bridge, said: “We are grateful for all of the hard work that has been undertaken by the project team and we all remain committed to securing the long term future of this amazing bridge.

“It is fitting that the bid for round two funding will now be submitted just before the 200th anniversary of the laying of the original foundation stone for the bridge’s construction, with the bid marking the foundation for the proposed comprehensive conservation works that will safeguard the bridge as a vehicle crossing for at least a further 120 years.”