A new £1.8million bridge to restore access to the East Beach in Lossiemouth has moved a step closer.
Final plans have been submitted to Moray Council to build the crossing to replace the current structure, which has been shut due to safety concerns since July 2019.
The loss of the bridge, which is affectionately known to locals as the “briggie”, has had a devastating impact on the Moray town with the annual economic impact estimated at £1.5million.
About 200,000 people are estimated to cross the bridge every year with the sands popular among tourists, dog walkers, watersports enthusiasts and bird watchers.
If approved, construction is expected to begin late this year or early next year with the first beach-goers due to walk across in spring 2022.
Why will the bridge be built in a new location?
The location of the new East Beach bridge in Lossiemouth has proved controversial while plans have been drawn up.
A survey carried out by the Lossiemouth Community Development Trust, which spearheaded the campaign for a replacement crossing, established that 63% of locals wanted it built in the Seatown location of current bridge.
However, Moray Council decided the Scottish Government-funded project would be built downstream in a new location on the Clifton Road esplanade due to it being £850,000 cheaper.
Concerns from locals have centred on fears about currents in the area and exposure to stormy weather.
Documents submitted to planners by contractors Beaver Bridges explain the design and location have been chosen to increase safety.
It adds: “Positioning the bridge more local to the amenities of Clifton Road can present opportunities to both business and users, enabling more ready access to shops and cafes when visiting the beach.
“This location also has the potential to alleviate some safety concerns, particularly the existing issue of people diving off the current bridge into the river.
“Having the bridge in a more populated open area will inherently discourage antisocial behaviour, this can also be true of vandalism.”
Meanwhile, documents say wires within the structure “can be easily replaced at a reasonable cost” if damaged by weather with the arched peak design to allow flood water to flow underneath.
Plans aim to address road safety concerns
Fears have been raised that the proposed location of the bridge in the plans could lead to traffic concerns along the Lossiemouth waterfront.
Parking spaces on Clifton Road near where the crossing is poised to be built are limited.
Beaver Bridges is proposing improvements to encourage beach-goers to continue to use nearby car parks while addressing road safety issues.
The current zebra crossing on Clifton Road is poised to be replaced with traffic lights and widened to accommodate more pedestrians.
Existing footpaths on the waterfront will be widened with signs from the East Beach and esplanade car parks to direct people to the bridge.
It is also hoped the improvements will encourage more cyclists.