Campaigners in Moray have warned it could still be another year until access is restored to Lossiemouth’s East Beach – despite this week’s massive funding boost.
The Scottish Government has committed to paying to either repair or replace the crossing due to its “unique circumstances” after it was shut on safety grounds.
However, despite the financial pledge the new crossing still needs to be designed with relevant planning permission secured – as well as possible issues involving land ownership be resolved – before it can be built.
Yesterday the Lossiemouth Community Development Trust, which has spearheaded the campaign, warned it was “too early to say” when access could be restored to the beach – but warned it could still be at least a year.
The group has also stressed that the £80,000 already raised through a combination of fundraising, donations and grants would be ring-fenced until it is known how far the government’s support will extend.
Estimates to repair or replace the existing bridge have ranged from £500,000 to more than £700,000.
Rab Forbes, chairman of the trust’s bridge committee, said: “Five years ago, when we started this, we never thought we’d find ourselves in this situation but I couldn’t be more happy with the end result.”
Huw Williams, the trust’s development officer, added: “Knowing that the Scottish Government have promised to fully fund this project is a fantastic result.
“The East Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Scotland and brings people to the town from all over. It’s vital that we reinstate safe access as soon as possible.”
Discussions between the trust and the Scottish Government remain at an early stage but the group believes it is likely that Moray Council will now take the lead on the project.
Ownership of the new crossing also remains to be addressed, with the 100-year-old structure remaining ownerless following the demise of the Elgin Harbour board and Moray Council and the Crown Estate both declining to take it on.
Maintaining access to the East Beach was the main objective of the trust when it was formed five years ago.
Chairman Alan Macdonald said: “We are in a much stronger position to move forward now.
“The community are delighted at the great news that safe beach access will be reinstated.”