A surprise U-turn by the council means Newton Stewart’s Sparling Bridge could be back up this autumn, but crucial funding for the work is dependant on the community being consulted by the Cree Valley Community Council.
At a meeting of the CVCC Flood Forum on Wednesday evening in the Douglas Ewart High School, attended by 30 members of the public, Chairman Clifford Smithers broke the good news that Dumfries and Galloway Council officials had now agreed that the original bridge was long enough to span the Cree 100 metres downstream from where it sat originally.
Prior to a site meeting on Monday, the local authority had insisted the old bridge was too short and a new bridge, at a potential cost of £300,000, would be needed, meaning a wait of up to five years to access that amount of money.
Now, simply moving the old bridge to the new site, near to Aldi’s car park, can by funded through a Scottish Government scheme. They will pay 80 per cent of the costs, and the other 20 per cent will have to be raised by the council. But a key component of accessing funding streams is showing that a robust consultation process has taken place with the local community.
Elected members told CVCC officials that doing this was their responsibility and part of their remit. As timescales are already tight if work erecting the bridge is to happen between May to September, this community consultation must begin as soon as possible.
Newton Stewart Post Office manager Arlene Da Prato, sitting in the public seats, offered to both hand out and collect consultation documents if this would help the community council.
Mid Galloway Councillor Graham Nicol said the having the bridge downstream would mean that disabled access would only be needed on the Minnigaff side.
The Sparling footbridge, that linked Newton Stewart and Minnigaff, was removed from its abutments in November after the height of the bridge was found to be a contributory factor in recent flood events, as it acted like a dam after debris was washed downstream into it.