The future of the former wooden Lossiemouth East Beach wooden footbridge will be decided by Moray Council this week.
A report prepared by council officers says that the existing bridge could be knocked down at the same time as a new structure is built from the town’s Esplanade at a cost of £69,000.
It comes after the Scottish Government confirmed funding of £1.8 million in March to replace the bridge, which was closed in July 2019 on safety grounds after enduring the weight of thousands of sun-seekers for years.
Business leaders in Lossiemouth previously revealed the closure of the town’s iconic footbridge had resulted in the local economy missing out on £1.5m annually in visitor spend.
Now a report set to go in front of councillors gives a time frame for construction work on the new bridge to begin in January with work completed in either March or April.
Officials have stressed the building timetable may still be subject to change.
An alternative has been put forward, which would involve the council waiting until the wooden bridge, which is more than 100 years old, becomes even more unsafe and then spend an estimated £77,000 to knock it down.
What will be left of the old bridge?
The Lossiemouth Community Development Trust, which spearheaded the campaign to replace or repair the existing crossing, will be holding talks in the coming days to decide what they would like done with the old bridge.
Rab Forbes, chairman of the group’s bridge committee, said: “We’ve got to come to an opinion about what the the trust wants, and more importantly what the local community would like done.
“At the moment we don’t have any idea about timescales or even what the council intends to do.
“One of the concerns is what would be left of the former bridge. Would it be just the walkway removed or would it be taken down to sea level?
“I think some people in the town would like to know what will be left.”
Council could save £8,000 on demolition by acting now
A report to the full council meeting, which will be held on Wednesday, highlights that acting now would lead to a cheaper demolition process, while also saving cash on annual inspections.
It reads: “Funding for the replacement bridge does not include an allowance for demolition of the existing bridge.
“Although the existing bridge has no owner the council has a duty to ensure public safety and so will ultimately have to remove the structure at its own cost.
“The bridge will continue to deteriorate and will become an increasing risk to public safety that will require the council to take action.
“At this point in time the bridge is considered safe because we have prevented public access to it, however, there will come a point when the risk of items falling from the bridge will become a risk to river users.
“The council can use the power of wellbeing to take action now to remove the old bridge by included it in the contract for the new build at of cost estimate of £69,000 saving £8,000 and would need to be funded from reserves.”
The new bridge is expected to have a 100-year life span.