The future of a historic bridge between Scotland and England is looking much brighter, thanks to a National Lottery grant.
A significant step has been taken in the campaign to secure the status of the historic Union Chain Bridge, which spans the River Tweed between Horncliffe in England and Fishwick in Scotland.
A first round Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) bid by Scottish Borders Council (SBC), Northumberland County Council (NCC), Woodhorn Charitable Trust and community group Friends of the Union Chain Bridge was approved this week. The project has secured a £360,000 development grant.
It means the £7.3million project can now move into a one year development phase to progress the scheme further, ahead of a second round submission.
Built by Captain Samuel Brown in 1820, the Union Chain Bridge is currently the oldest operational suspension bridge in the world still carrying vehicles, and through securing National Lottery support, it is anticipated that the bridge project can also deliver numerous cultural, heritage, educational and community benefits.
The first round HLF bid focused on conserving and raising awareness of the internationally significant bridge, which celebrates its 200th birthday in 2020.
The project also aims to raise the profile of nearby attractions, providing learning opportunities for young people inspired by the bridge’s innovative engineering, and developing meaningful cross-border heritage projects and partnerships.
This includes using the bridge and its conservation to develop educational resources and case study materials for the teaching of science, technology, engineering and maths subjects from primary schools up to postgraduate level – to inspire a new generation to choose careers in science and engineering and to follow in the footsteps of Captain Samuel Brown.
Gordon Edgar, SBC’s executive member for roads and infrastructure, said: ‘It is exciting news that the first round stage of the Heritage Lottery Fund process has been passed by the Union Chain Bridge project.
‘A significant amount of hard work by both councils, the Friends of the Union Chain Bridge and other parties has gone into getting the project to this stage, and there is a lot more to do to pass the second round.
‘However, the support we have had from across the globe shows the importance of the bridge, and I am positive that if successful this project can provide significant cultural, heritage, educational and community benefits.’
Councillor Glen Sanderson, cabinet member for the environment and local services with Northumberland County Council, added: ‘It’s fantastic news that we’ve been successful in this first round bid.
‘So much work has gone on behind the scenes on both sides of the border over the past year to allow us to submit such a strong bid.
‘This must be one of the first projects of this size to be cross council and it’s great to be able to do away with the border between England and Scotland to reach common ground.
‘We’re now looking forward to moving into the next round with renewed enthusiasm.’
Rowan Bridge, CEO of Woodhorn Charitable Trust, said: ‘The Trust was delighted to support both councils on this application.
‘We look forward to delivering a transformative project for the benefit of our communities both north and south of the border which will build and preserve heritage, technical and historic skills throughout the scheme and restore a structure of national and international significance.’
Robbie Hunter, chair of the Friends of the Union Chain Bridge, added: ‘I am thrilled that all the hard work of Northumberland County Council, Scottish Borders Council and our friends and supporters has paid off and we have passed the first stage towards securing the future of this iconic bridge.
‘I am confident that the restoration will provide great opportunities and benefits to this area and I look forward to seeing this project through to its conclusion.’