The team responsible for restoring the world-famous Union Chain Bridge between Scotland and England have found themselves playing an extra role in the local community.
While being best known as an engineering firm specialising in complex bridge work, Spencer Group have found themselves doing a number of extra jobs in their spare time and at their own cost for communities surrounding the site.
This work has seen Spencer Group building a disabled access ramp, improving footpaths and repairing a storm damaged roof.
Using redundant materials taken from the Union Chain Bridge that would otherwise be disposed of, they have created a sculpture for a local historical society, a bar for Horncliffe Village Hall using spare timbers, with the remainder being distributed as firewood to local communities – and have even seen them providing emergency first aid during a medical emergency near the site.
Neil Hewitt, project director from Spencer Group explained: ‘We like to become a part of the community we are working in, which helps to build good strong relationships with stakeholders so that they feel they can approach us – we are always here to listen, and always happy to help.’
Simon Rudman, design manager with Northumberland County Council, said: ‘It’s great when we have a contractor who understands that a major project like this is more than just about the nuts and bolts – it’s about supporting the communities for whom the bridge is part of their everyday lives.
‘We’re working with the team every day and you can see their passion for the project and the wider area, as well as their willingness to go the extra mile in helping out locally.’
In September 2019 plans to fully restore the bridge received £3.14million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
This followed an ambitious funding bid put together by Northumberland County Council, Scottish Borders Council, Museums Northumberland and community group Friends of the Union Chain Bridge, after serious concerns about the condition of the world-famous structure.
Both councils committed funding totalling £5.7m towards the £10.5m scheme, with ongoing fundraising activities by the Friends of Union Chain Bridge in support of the project.
Full restoration of the structure got underway last October and the painstaking work to refurbish the bridge and ultimately to reinstate it is now underway. It is due to re-open early next year.