Sparling site will go to a vote

The removal of the sparling bridge
The chains are attached to the bridge
The removal of the sparling bridge The chains are attached to the bridge

Where exactly the Sparling Bridge is to be reinstated is now down to the residents of Newton Stewart and Minnigaff.

They will be asked for their opinions by Cree Valley Community Council between March 6 and 12.

The townspeople are being encouraged to have their say about the location of the much-missed footbridge that linked the two communities before its removal, after funding for the reinstatement work was made available by the Scottish Government.

At this week’s Cree Valley Community Council in the McMillan Hall, Mid Galloway Councillor Alistair Geddes asked the CVCC members to provide a “robust, comprehensive public consultative exercise” to allow as many people as possible to become involved in the process.

The elected member added: “People have expressed their legitimate frustration about the loss of the bridge. So, if people realise they have a role to play in this they will not let you down.

“I suggest you (the community council) get a timeline drawn up so everyone knows the timescale.”

The bridge could go back where it was, but it must be raised by 1.2 metres to prevent debris, washed downstream when the Cree is in spate, becoming lodged in the structure. This would require lengthier disabled access on each bank to comply with health and safety guidelines. Alternatively, the bridge could be installed 100 metres further downstream, nearer to the Aldi supermarket car park, where disabled access is only required on the Minnigaff bank. Both proposals are subject to agreement being reached with the landowner on the Minnigaff side and getting planning permission.

Attending the meeting was council officer Graham McKie who suggested having the plans for both proposals on display for residents to view in venues on both sides of the Cree. These ‘drop-in’ centres would be manned by CVCC volunteers who would be able to provide further information. After seeing the options, people would be asked to compete a voting slip put it in a ballot box.

Eighty per cent of the money required for the work will come from the Scottish Government and the rest will have to be raised by the local authority. Part of the criteria required for accessing funding streams is showing that consultation has taken place.

Mid Galloway Councillor Jim McColm said any financial contribution from the CVCC, including using its windfarm money, would be a “constructive gesture”.

The bridge was removed after it became a contributory factor in recent flooding incidents, and is currently stored at the local authority’s depot at Barnkirk.