Moray's Conservative MP Douglas Ross hits out at councillors for 'scandalous' lack of support for Cloddach Bridge reopening
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Moray's Conservative MP Douglas Ross has said SNP councillors should “hang their heads in shame” after voting to stop work progressing on reopening the Cloddach Bridge.
Mr Ross said it was “absolutely disgraceful” that SNP councillors, and Labour councillor Sandy Keith (Elgin City North), backed plans to stop further funding being used to re-open the bridge near Birnie.
Cloddach Bridge, used by upwards of 700 vehicles per day, has been closed since the start of 2022 due to structural damage. Funding of £1.5 million was provided by the UK Government to help reopen the bridge.
However, this was matched-funding, meaning the Moray Council had to find another £1.5 million themselves – plus £175,000 to undertake a full business case.
Heldon Community Council found £120,000 in funding themselves to help fund the business case – and councillors voted 14-12 to go ahead with plans.
This was against the recommendation of council officers and against the wishes of the SNP group, who hoped to spend money on bridges and projects deemed higher priority by the council
Mr Ross said it was "absolutely disgraceful" that councillors – mostly SNP – voted to stop plans progressing, and also hit out at council officers.
He said votes against the project progressing were “totally insulting” to Heldon Community Council members who have worked hard to raise funds for the business case.
“SNP councillors in Moray should be embarrassed by their appalling attempt to stop work progressing on the re-opening of Cloddach Bridge," he said.
“It is absolutely disgraceful that they wanted to stop a business case from being completed, when funding is in place from the UK Government and from Heldon Community Council.
“Their position was a total insult to the community council who had worked tirelessly to find a solution to help re-open the bridge.
“I was astonished to hear the SNP member for the ward say he wanted to ‘nip the issue in the bud’ and voted to do nothing further to open this bridge.
“It has also been clear that council officers did not support re-opening this bridge and have repeatedly tried to frustrate the project.
"It is completely wrong and unacceptable for non-elected officers to act in this way and I will be raising this with the chief executive (Roddy Burns) at my next meeting with him.
“I’m pleased that, despite the actions of some council officers and councillors, the right decision was taken to progress with the reopening of Cloddach bridge."
Councillor Neil Cameron (Heldon and Laich, SNP) said he wanted to see the issue 'nipped in the bud' as he voted to stop plans progressing.
He said Moray Council had higher priority bridges that should be focused on before Cloddach Bridge and the money from the UK Government came with too many strings attached.
"We as a Moray Council have been made into a political football by Westminister," he said. "They haven't offered us £1.5 million, they have offered us £1.5 million if we get funding in time.
"I don't doubt passion the of people that use the bridge. I've met them and worked with them on a regular basis.
"But this has gone on far too long and it needs to be nipped in the bud. We have other priorities."
There are four options regarding Cloddach Bridge's future as the Conservative motion passed. Keeping the bridge open for pedestrians and cyclists and maintaining it would cost £830,000 across its lifetime.
The other options are repairing the bridge at a cost of £4.3 million, creating an overbridge, which would cost between £3.6 and £3.9 million and creating a new bridge entirely for between £2.9 million and £3.6 million.