Concerns raised as council earmarks £1.5m for bridge replacement

The sum matches a funding announcement by the UK Government for the span Birnie to the south of Elgin.

Concerns raised as Moray Council earmarks £1.5m for bridge replacement Moray Council

Moray Council have earmarked £1.5m from an underspend on bridge repairs to replace Cloddach bridge.

Councillors will initially spend £30,000 to review if it is worth putting a business case together for the replacement.

The sum matches the amount announced by the UK Government earlier this year to fund the span near Birnie to the south of Elgin.

But the decision to ring-fence the money is expected to incur loan charges of around £100,000.

And concerns were raised at meeting of the full council on Wednesday that other projects seen as a greater priority for the council could suffer.

Councillor for Elgin South Graham Leadbitter wanted the total cost of the bridge – estimated at around £3 million – to come from Westminster.

He also called for the cost of the initial investigations and a £150,000 business case to be included.

Mr Leadbitter said: “The UK Government has prioritised Cloddach bridge out with the council’s strategic priorities.

“If the UK Government chooses to prioritise it, they should fund it in its entirety and not at the expense of bridges serving communities across Moray.”

He added it felt as if the administration was making decisions on the hoof that could compromise the financial situation of the council.

However members voted by 14 to 10 in favour of pursuing the pre-feasibility study for the bridge.

They also voted by the same numbers to earmark the £1.5m underspend for the project.

That came despite a warming from chief financial officer Lorraine Paisey it would be a risk for the council.

Councillor for Fochabers Lhanbryde Marc Macrae backed the move to spend the money on the bridge.

He said: “The community have been very active in campaigning and lobbying.

“And we have to deal with Scottish Government priorities that are not fully funded.”

Heldon and Laich councillor Bridget Mustard called for the underspend to be put towards Cloddach bridge.

She said: “Although this is not a priority within the capital plan, it’s a priority for the community.”

The pre-feasibility study and the business case will be a cost to the council.

Cloddach bridge has been closed to cars and vans since February 2022.

However it can be used by pedestrians and cyclists.

In February councillors decided against spending just over £30,000 to look at options for opening the span to vehicles up to three tonnes.

The local authority has to find £19m over the next two years to balance the budget.

Closure of the bridge has caused difficulties for residents including increased journey times for pupils going to school in Elgin.

There are also fears police, ambulance and fire services face problems getting to emergency situations.

Reopening the span to vehicles would bring an economic benefit of £74,000 a year to the area.

However the bridge is seen as low priority for repair, as the maximum diversion for people getting to Elgin from Birnie is six miles.

Also the road is not designated as a critical route as there were fewer than 7,000 vehicle movements on it a day.

The condition of Cloddach bridge has deteriorated over the last two decades.

In 2001 a 7.5 tonne weight restriction was applied. That was lowered to three tonnes in 2019.

Then a two metre height restriction was put in to stop non-compliant vehicles from crossing.

But it was repeatedly hit by drivers in the months before it was closed to motorists.

Additionally, if the bridge is deemed to be unsafe it will be closed and demolished costing £333,500.

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