RECURRENT public queries and questions about the Annan bridges project have been answered in depth.
The Tale of Two Bridges group wants to respond to recent letters in the paper, and comments locally, about timescales and their efforts.
They stressed this week that they are just a small number of volunteers who are trying to “advance the cause”, adding: “It has been boring, legally complicated and much of it has been hard work, dealing with issues we have never had to consider before.
“None of us have ever had to consider the actual logistics involved in replacing a bridge before and we have sometimes been “flailing in the dark”.
“We have families, full-time jobs and other commitments but feel passionately that if we don’t do this, who will?”
Their meetings are held monthly and anyone with an interest is encouraged to go along and help.
Addressing the cost of a feasibility study, the group said: “We agree, it is a lot of money! However, once you look into what this options survey will include and break it down into the various professions and processes that need to be considered and consulted it makes a lot more sense. This is something that simply cannot be done by a group of well-meaning volunteers.”
And they shared a breakdown from the council’s engineering design manager Duncan McDonald, which said: “It is standard best practice with construction projects such as this that various phases of work are undertaken to ultimately deliver a bridge(s) on the ground. This can take some time and would normally include:
a) Concept Phase (identify potential solutions and their feasibility)
b) Preliminary Design Phase (outline design work and cost estimate)
c) Detailed Design Phase
d) Procurement Phase
e) Construction Phase.”
Mr McDonald pointed out the Annan project is currently within the initial concept phase and the feasibility study will consider consideration of replacement footbridge(s) within the zone identified;
options for temporary footbridge; designs to withstand the weather; disabled access; potential funding; consultation feedback; initial topographical work, site inspections, ecological scoping and ground investigation; land ownership; options for bridge ownership and future maintenance responsibilities.
It will result in a report with a list of options, including associated benefits/disadvantages, impacts, costs estimates, conclusions and recommendations.
Annan-A Tale Of Two Bridges said: “We consider it extremely fortunate that Dumfries and Galloway Council and the Scottish Government are willing to provide the funds and help and guidance.
“The bridges were never “owned” by the council and legally they were never obliged to help in any way. However, they have given us support all the way and even removed the wreckage from the river at their own cost, to keep the area safe.”
Responding to questions about using the army, they confirmed they were contacted but will only step in if a community has been cut off. However, the military say they would be able to build a temporary bridge if the group pay all costs – but there is not the money yet for this.
Using secondhand bridges was considered but had to be disregarded due to complications including structural surveys, the large span of the river, plus the high probability of flooding recurring.
As for the number of replacement bridges, the group said: “Another query raised was whether people actually want two bridges. After an extensive online and physical survey, plus community meetings, we discovered the answer was an overwhelming yes! We lost two bridges and we want two bridges back in an ideal world.
“Part of the options survey is to establish if this is feasible. Our core aim as a group is that one day will be able to see two bridges across the Annan again.”
Meanwhile, it was revealed that the council are in talks with AMEY and Scottish Highways Agency about possible permission to “add on” to the A75 flyover.
The committee said: “This is a very complicated endeavour and although it might be a cheaper way of getting us across the river, it may not be able to be used as a permanent structure and would still cost at least tens of thousands of pounds. Money we just do not have at the moment.
“Even to create a path/stairway up to the road would need a team of construction experts and engineers. The last thing we would want to do is weaken the structure of the bridge.”
Despite all the obstacles, the group say they are now at a “very exciting stage”, with legal agreements signed, charity status pending and the survey about to start.
“We finally feel as if we are getting somewhere after two years of hard work,” they said.
And they hope townsfolk will turn out in force for their next AGM, which will be advertised in this paper.