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Moray Council told: Thomas Telford bridge at Craigellachie is your responsibility

By Hazel Lawson Local Democracy Reporter

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The Telford Bridge over the River Spey at Craigellachie.
The Telford Bridge over the River Spey at Craigellachie.

A small step forward has been taken in securing the future of an iconic Moray bridge.

Designed by Thomas Telford, the single arch cast iron span over the River Spey at Craigellachie is in need of repair.

But uncertainty over who is responsible for the structure has prevented the Friends of Craigellachie Bridge group from raising money for the work.

The charity has now received information received from the Scottish Government which points to Moray Council as best placed to take charge of the bridge.

For its part, although stating that the ownership is "unknown", the council has pledged to work cooperatively.

Mike Middlehurst, chairman of the friends group, said: "We are moving forward but it’s a slow process.

"We now have conformation from the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland that this is Moray Council’s issue. And they have to deal with it.

"There is a process they need to go through to obtain the title.

"All councils are facing significant budget restrictions and we appreciate their costs must be justified.

"We hope to continue to work with Moray Council to ensure that the costs can be funded and the title obtained once we have an accurate up-to-date condition report on the Telford Bridge."

Mr Middlehurst added the main priority was to arrange a meeting with the group responsible for restoring the Union Chain Bridge, which spans the River Tweed between Scotland and England.

He said: “We need to absorb their learning and apply it to the Telford Bridge at Craigellachie."

As well as restoring the structure to its former glory, the group would like to open a tourist centre in the village.

They are also keen for the bridge to be included in a Thomas Telford Trail, similar to one that runs between Fort William and Inverness, and another around Shropshire, both of which celebrate the civil engineer’s work.

Councillor Juli Harris (Speyside/Glenlivet, SNP) praised the friends group for their hard work.

She said: "There has been a huge amount of effort put into bring this forward.

"The Telford bridge is hugely important and Moray should be mindful of preserving our heritage and culture.

"This has huge potential in terms of tourism for Moray and Speyside.

"Considering the extra whisky tax that’s been imposed recently, and the £1.5 million for Cloddach Bridge, it would be great to see the UK Government make a similar commitment to the Telford Bridge."

Built in 1814, the bridge formed part of the main road between Elgin and Grantown until it closed to vehicles in October 1972.

Originally half the funds for the span came from the government, with the rest raised through public subscriptions.

A spokesperson for Moray Council said: “The ownership of the Telford Bridge is unknown.

"We have been in consultation with the Friends of Craigellachie Bridge for a number of year providing advice on how to take the project forward and the information that is needed.

"We will continue to work cooperatively with the group."

The bridge, which in 2015 appeared on a Royal Mail stamp as part of a collection celebrating engineering genius, is Category A listed by Historic Environment Scotland.

Scaffolding is expected to be required around the whole structure when work begins.

It will also have to be shrink-wrapped to prevent any materials falling into the environmentally sensitive River Spey.

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