VILLAGERS in the Borders today lost what may prove to be the decisive stage in their battle to have timber lorries switched to a new crossing in Tweedsmuir to protect historic Carlows Bridge.
Scottish Borders councillors voted 9-5 to repair the 228-year-old bridge over the Tweed rather than build a new one north of the village.
The £412,000 scheme will include a temporary crossing beside the existing bridge while it is refurbished.
Locals have claimed this will cause “irreparable” damage because of the tree felling and excavation required.
However, the council claimed a new permanent bridge sought by the community - which officials said would cost £707,000 - would create far greater impact on the landscape.
Villagers want to prevent further damage to Carlows Bridge and take timber lorries away from houses.
Catriona Bhatia, a local Liberal Democrat councillor, failed to persuade the council’s executive committee to back a new bridge.
Her attempt to have it taken forward to the next stage of the project when bids are sought for the work, along with the council’s plan, was also defeated by 9-5.
The decision is now council policy and does not have to be approved by a full meeting of the local authority.
Ms Bhatia said: “I’m very disappointed the council did not agree to support my motion to take both options forward to tender, as this would have given us certainty around the comparative costs so we could take a properly informed decision. “
A council spokesman said: “The executive committee had a full and frank discussion of all the options included in the Carlows Bridge report.
“Ultimately, it was agreed that the officers’ recommended option carried the least risk for the council and the local community.
“The council appreciates the efforts of the local community throughout this process, and will continue to engage with them during the next phase.”
The Tweedsmuir Bridge Advisory Group, set up by villagers to protect Carlows Bridge, had warned that councillors would be shortsighted if they accepted their officials’ recommendation to repair and reopen it to all traffic.
Spokesman Rod Sibbald said: “This option offers no long-term benefits and does not represent good value for the public purse.”
He said the group’s proposal for a new bridge had “much greater long-term benefits”.