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Closure of iconic Infirmary Bridge over the River Ness in Inverness is criticised by campaign group OpenNess – they claim it follows decades of under investment and is out of use just before the height of summer when demand is high

By Ian Duncan

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Councillor Alex Graham at Infirmary Bridge in Inverness.
Councillor Alex Graham at Infirmary Bridge in Inverness.

The timing of the closure of an Inverness bridge has been criticised by a Highland campaign group.

Last month members of Highland Council’s economy and infrastructure committee agreed a budget of up to £550,000 in funding for repairs to Infirmary Bridge.

The move followed concerns that it could be closed permanently following decades of alleged under investment.

However, last week the council closed the bridge indefinitely, on health and safety grounds, after decking panels were showing distress. The closure will allow a more detailed inspection and analysis.

OpenNess, which is based in the Highland capital, has criticised the timing of the closure.

It argues the council could have diverted funding to the bridge earlier, rather than investing in the pursuit of the controversial Gathering Place artwork nearby along the River Ness.

A spokesman for the campaign group said: “The Infirmary Bridge is now closed for inspection as it is needing repairs – at the height of summer when more people, local and visitors, are out and about, and during a pandemic when people are being encouraged to walk and cycle for everyday journeys.

“Meanwhile, just along the riverbank, work continues on a public arts project, funded by Highland Council and [Inverness] Common Good Fund money, which has been overwhelmingly rejected by local people.”

The spokesman added that, while the budget for the repairs had been agreed, the fact remained that the bridge had been starved of maintenance for years and this closure was “entirely predictable”.

However, Councillor Alex Graham (Lib Dems, Inverness West), whose ward includes the iconic bridge, said: “Public safety comes first and this work has to be carried out.

“At present it’s not clear when the bridge can reopen. The council is currently considering temporary measures which may allow it to reopen again in advance of the major repairs already agreed.

“In the summer peak it’s used up to 85,000 times each month by walkers and cyclists, so there will be great inconvenience if the closure is prolonged.

“Procurement process and SEPA licensing requirements mean that the main repair work can’t go ahead quickly.

“I am personally hopeful that the bridge can be put back into use for the tourist season, but that’s not guaranteed.”

Substantial repairs were undertaken to the bridge in 1977 and 1994 by the Highland Regional Council.

Related article: Infirmary Bridge in Inverness closed on 'health and safety grounds'

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