Moray Council has explained the process which led to the decision to close the East Beach footbridge in Lossiemouth, first reported on insideMORAY on Wednesday afternoon, and confirms it will remain closed until such time as it is made safe.
A visual inspection of the bridge took place on Wednesday (24 July) afternoon following a number of concerned members of the public contacting Moray Council highlighting the perceived instability of the bridge which was seen to be leaning to one side. Moray Council’s building standards officers and structural engineer assessed the bridge and deemed it to be unsafe for use at that time. A decision was then taken in terms of section 29 of the Building (Scotland) Act 2003 that closure was necessary in order to protect the public and a managed evacuation of the beach was carried out. The Council is obliged to act in these circumstances. This duty exists although the Council does not own the bridge.
The inspection found a number of supporting ties to have cracked or split on the downstream truss in the middle of the bridge. One of these ties has clearly failed recently as the broken end has not yet rusted. The bridge is also now sagging noticeably towards the downstream side. Photos showing this damage and a summary of the structural considerations which led to the decision to close have been published on Moray Council’s website and are available on https://www.mynewsdesk.com/uk/moray-council/documents/lossiemouth-east-sands-footbridge-89459
Speaking yesterday, Thursday 25 July, Convener of Moray Council, Cllr Shona Morrison, said: “While the legal opinion obtained by Lossiemouth Community Development Trust states that the bridge is technically ownerless, which limits the range of options available to us, Moray Council has obligations under the Building (Scotland) Act 2003 to ensure public safety. This includes a requirement to close any structures that appear unsafe, hence the decision was taken on Wednesday evening to close the bridge, which was the responsible course of action.
“Elected members and Council officers are liaising with Lossiemouth Community Council, Lossiemouth Community Development Trust and Lossiemouth Business Association to consider future action. This is likely to require independent structural engineering advice as the evidence on which the closure decision was based cannot be relied upon for other purposes, but will be shared because of the clear public interest in this issue. These organisations will all have full details of the closure decision and evidence by close of business today. [Editor Note: see link to report, above]
“Meantime I would urge people to refrain from climbing on or attempting to access the bridge as we have had some reports of this since the closure. As the photographs show, it is not currently safe for this kind of activity.”
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said: “The closure of the iconic footbridge at Lossiemouth at the height of the tourist season is a huge blow and an urgent solution needs to be found.
“I have been in contact with the Moray Council to get an urgent briefing on the decision and have asked what steps officers can take to support the community in their efforts to reinstate access to the East Beach as soon as possible.
“We know that it will cost a considerable sum of money to either repair or replace the bridge but I will continue to do whatever I can as local MSP to support the Development Trust to raise the funds they need, and I would urge anyone who can help the campaign to make contact with them.”
Mr Lochhead has also spoken with 39 Engineers at Kinloss to seek their assistance in finding a solution, following which he added: “I’ve spoken to senior personnel at Kinloss Barracks and they have helpfully said they stand ready to help in any way they can and would be keen to discuss with the local community and the Council what form that may take.
“There is a lot of work to be done in the next few days and I welcome the partnership between the local community and the Moray Council that is now there to take this challenge forward as a matter of urgency.”
Moray MP Douglas Ross has also raised the matter in the UK Parliament, and said: : “I’ve been contacted by many constituents in Lossiemouth who are extremely concerned about the fact that the footbridge has been closed at the peak of the busy tourist season.
“I took the opportunity to raise this in Parliament to highlight the thousands of people who cross the bridge each day and how much of an impact its closure could have on businesses in the town. I stressed in Parliament that I hope the Scottish and UK governments can assist, as well as the council and the private sector, to get the bridge open as quickly as possible.
“I am speaking with the council and other organisations to do everything I can to help get the bridge back open. Given that thousands of people have used the bridge this week alone, closing it has repercussions for the local economy and for businesses who rely on tourism, much of which comes from people using the bridge to get across to the beach and then spending their day or holidays in the local area.
“I understand that structural engineers have been on site to assess the situation and a section has become loose which makes it unsafe to use. Hopefully, they can find a solution to address this.
“This is an iconic bridge leading to a wonderful beach and I hope we can all work together to get it re-opened as quickly as possible.”
In the meantime, the work of Lossiemouth Community Development Trust, described in detail on their website at http://www.lossietrust.org/ and http://www.lossietrust.org/lossiemouth-east-beach-bridge-crowdfunding-campaign/continues, and they have redoubled their essential fundraising efforts.
insideMORAY readers can contribute to the crowdfunding campaign on https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/lossietrust