Spring Up-date

Friends of the Union Chain Bridge Spring Up-Date

Dear Friend,

Welcome to our Spring Up-date. Those of you who are following the progress of the project in the local news will be aware that Scottish Borders Council has pledged £550,000 to the refurbishment of the bridge, which, with Northumberland County Council’s allocation of £500,000, means the project has £1m behind it so far.

Extraordinary General Meeting

Overwhelming support was given at an Extraordinary General Meeting held at Paxton Village Hall in January for the conversion of the Friends of the Union Chain Bridge from an Unincorporated Organisation to a Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Our application for charitable status is currently in the hands of The Charity Commission and we await our official charity number. Thank you to those of you who were able to come along to that meeting.

HLF Bid

In February the Trustees were invited to view the ‘Project Enquiry Form’, which is a short, 1,000 word application to the Heritage Lottery Fund prepared by Consult Robinson and commissioned by Northumberland County Council. This outlined the project based on a capital works including repairs to the deck, parapets, hangers, chains, traffic calming and masonry and also community heritage including education, interpretation, marketing, celebration and co-ordination. It was expected that this application would be made in February and would be based on an engineering report which gave the costs as £4.7 million. However NCC has postponed making the application in order to review those figures based on a second engineering report which they should receive in April.

Meeting with Historic Scotland

In March the Trustees initiated a meeting with Historic Scotland and here follows a report on that meeting from John Home Robertson:

“Heather, John, Ted and Stephen met David Fleetwood of the Scottish Government Historic Environment Department and Andrew Martindale and Thomas Knowles of Historic Scotland on the bridge on 5th March, following correspondence between John and Fiona Hyslop MSP, the Scottish Culture Minister.

They explained that Historic Scotland can pay grants of up to 25% of eligible repair and restoration costs up to £500k. Since this is a cross-border structure, they would have to ensure that their money is spent on the Scottish part of the bridge, but they saw no difficulty in satisfying that requirement, and they can pay the grant through either Northumberland County Council or Scottish Borders Council.

Obviously they could not prejudge an application for funding, but they clearly fully appreciate the historic importance of the bridge, and they seemed enthusiastic about the prospect of collaborating with partners on both sides of the border – they suggested an early meeting with both local authorities, their counterparts at English Heritage and the Friends of the Union Chain Bridge.

Altogether an extremely positive and constructive meeting, let’s hope that English Heritage will match the £500k that could be available from Historic Scotland.”

Corporate and General Membership

We have drawn up plans to launch Corporate Membership and forms will be available soon. We hope that if companies take up the opportunity to become corporate members their businesses can be advertised on promotional materials and on our website. Please email unionbridgefriends@gmail.com for more information.

We will be asking regular members to renew their membership on 1st October 2015, so if you became a member last summer you will benefit from a few extra months’ membership and unfortunately if you became a member in late autumn or winter you might lose out on a couple of months’ membership, so we are sorry about this. Those who have become members should have received a car sticker, postcard and leaflet. If anyone has not received these please let us know and we’ll get them to you.

Berwickshire Naturalists Talk

Looking ahead, Professor Roland Paxton – who is one of our patrons – has accepted an invitation from the Berwickshire Naturalists’ Club to give a talk about the bridge in Hutton Village Hall on 20 May at 2pm. Those who are not members of the Berwickshire Naturalists are welcome to attend as guests and are asked to pay £2 per head.

Future Fundraising

We hope to hold a fundraising ceilidh early in the autumn with music provided by the Small Hall Band. This will be held at one of the village halls. There will be more information closer to the time so keep your eye on the local press.

Best wishes,

Heather

Chairman.

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