Business leaders in Lossiemouth have revealed the closure of the town’s East Beach bridge has resulted in the local economy missing out on £1.5m annually in visitor spend.
The crossing to the sands was closed in July 2019 on safety grounds after it buckled under the weight of thousands of sun-seekers.
The East Beach used to be a popular spot for locals and tourists to visit in the summer months.
However since the bridge was sealed off, the number of tourists flocking to the seaside town and spending their cash at the local businesses has plummeted.
Devastating impact on local economy revealed
The data released, as part of the economic impact assessment carried out by Steve Westbrook, Economist and Fiona Hepburn, highlighted the devastating financial losses caused by the bridge closure on the town that usually benefits from the tourism industry.
This comes as it was estimated 200,000 people visited the beach in 2018.
An online survey revealed that 72% of local businesses’ trade was negatively impacted by the bridge closure.
While 76% say that a high quality bridge replacement would influence their future investment or expansion plans.
The Scottish Government has committed to funding a replacement with a £1million contract already awarded to design and build the structure.
Now Moray Council has submitted the business case for government funding to help replace the popular and iconic footbridge.
The documents include the economic impact assessment compiled with public feedback and studies done by contractor Beaver Bridges when choosing the final design.
The council’s preferred option is a new footbridge at the Esplanade costing around £1.375m.
Moray Council’s convener Shona Morrison praised the public’s engagement with the recent survey and virtual exhibition.
Mrs Morrison added: “There was a great response to the exhibition and survey on the East Beach Bridge recently, which helped to inform the business case that’s now been submitted to the Scottish Government.
“There’s clearly a lot of support for being able to move to phase two of the process, designing and building the bridge, so I hope we can share good news of the funding confirmation as soon as possible.”
The region’s MSP, Richard Lochhead believes the new bridge will be a “milestone” for the local economy.
Mr Lochhead said: “There is no doubt that the loss of access to the beautiful East Beach has been a huge blow to the local business community given the importance of tourism to the town as well being a magnet for local visitors and passing trade.”
Lossiemouth East Beach bridge replacement needed for suffering local economy
Lossiemouth Business Association vice-chairwoman Val McLennan told the P&J: “We couldn’t anticipate the amount of lost revenue on an annual basis.
“If you are going to count the number of businesses directly and indirectly affected you are talking about a lot of money in relation to the price of the bridge.
“The cost of the bridge would be virtually recouped in the local community in year one.
“The assessment is all hard facts from businesses which clearly demonstrates the major impact of the bridge closure rather than estimations.
“We really need a new bridge and will get one only if the Scottish Government gives the green light for the funding.
“All businesses were asked to complete an online survey and consultants were hired to follow up with businesses.
“The bridge is vital for locals, businesses, visitors and the local economy.
“It is big moment as the business case has been submitted.”
Mrs McLennan has praised the Lossiemouth Community Development Trust for funding the economic impact assessment and all their “ground work” over the years to drive the bridge project forward.
Subject to funding being secured, it’s anticipated contractors Beaver Bridges could complete the bridge by Spring 2022.