The new Lossiemouth Bridge to access the East Beach
Possibly the biggest draw to Lossiemouth was the footbridge, extending from Seatown to the dunes of the east beach. The bridge was fairly long and spanned the River Lossie; it was an adventure crossing it, and kids loved it. Buying ice cream and walking over to the beach was a lovely day out with the family and vital to the local economy.
Sadly the old bridge was deemed no longer fit for use and closed in July 2019, leaving no public access to this beautiful beach just a stone's throw from the town.
Lossiemouth Community Development Trust
Step up Lossiemouth Community Development Trust (LCTD), which dedicated its time to saving the east bridge or raising funds for a replacement bridge. It was formed in late 2014 and produced a five-year plan following a consultation with the local community.
The top of the agenda was the East Beach Bridge which had received no maintenance for at least 20 years.
Hue Williams of the LCTD said:
"As you can imagine, a steel bridge near the sea doesn't bode very well, and over the years, it's just come to the point of either needing severe maintenance or a replacement bridge".
Local councillor Ryan Edwards is quoted as saying:
"It's not just important to Lossiemouth, it's important to the whole of Moray. This links one of our coastal routes from Lossie to Garmouth, and it's a very important stretch of beach."
A study found that more than 200,000 people per year used the bridge, contributing up to £1.5 million to the local economy.
Who owned Lossie East Beach Bridge?
One of the first stages of saving the bridge was finding out who owned it. The bridge was over 100 years old; it was assumed that Moray Council would have naturally taken ownership of the bridge being the local authority, but it was found to belong to the Crown after the original owners, the "Lossiemouth Old Harbour Commissioners", ceased to exist.
Although ownership had been established, the Crown had no intention of maintaining the bridge or felt any obligation towards it. Because ownerless properties fall to the Crown in Scotland, they are not legally bound to ensure these properties are maintained or replaced. However, they were amenable to an asset transfer of the bridge to a group willing to repair it.
Could the current bridge be repaired?
LCDT commissioned two reports on the status of the existing bridge:
First inspection - the structural integrity of the bridge was found to be poor.
Second inspection - parts of the bridge were still structurally sound, but many sections were in a state of decay, particularly the metal handrails and support structures. The condition of the wooden supports below the water level was unknown.
It was recommended the entire parapet or top of the bridge be replaced entirely; however, this meant that it would be built upon the 100-year-old wooden structure, the condition of which was unknown, underwater.
Bridge repair fundraising efforts
Rab Forbes, treasurer of LCDT, said:
"We had to lobby politicians for funding; our own local councillors were very supportive, as was our MSP. But we had to find the money and the finance to do that, which couldn't be found just from the public itself. So we carried out a lot of work to try and make sure that funding could be put in place to gain access again to the east beach".
Because of the unknown element of the condition of the wooden support structure for the bridge, no funding was available, and no license to repair the bridge could be granted.
The closure of Lossiemouth footbridge
On the 24th of July 2019, Moray Council sent structural engineers to investigate the existing bridge after members of the public had raised safety concerns. It was deemed unsafe to use, and although the council did not own the bridge, they were required to close the bridge for public safety.
Large signs were placed at the Seatown side of the footbridge, and the crossing was blocked via two large spiked barriers to deter those determined to flout the rules.
The loss of the footbridge really hit home to the local community and the wider residents of Moray. The east beach was completely blocked from access, and local businesses suffered as footfall was less due to the loss of the bridge and beach access. The local caravan park no longer had access to one of its biggest selling points.
People were also risking their lives by crossing the water to reach the beach, with rip-tides and the risk of stranding from fast-rising tides. The next nearest crossing point was 3 miles away at Arthur's Bridge.
The closure of the existing footbridge seemed to light a spark in the community to get behind the new bridge project.
With this newfound knowledge that the bridge was not feasible to repair and a replacement would be required, funding options for a new bridge were investigated.
Lossiemouth Community Development Trust found three options available for the new bridge:
Replace the current bridge in the same position.
A new location a little further downstream.
Rebuild the bridge from the esplanade where it had initially been in 1908.
Amazingly funding of £1.8 million was offered for the project from the Scottish Government and Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE).
Option 3 was selected, as funding from the Scottish Government could only be granted for the "best value" option. The span from the esplanade to the beach was the shortest and, therefore, the least expensive option. Option 1 would require a bridge much longer, so it would not meet the funding requirements in the current position.
The design of the new Lossiemouth bridge
After a tendering process, Beaver Bridges was selected to design and build the new Lossiemouth East Bridge.
Plans were submitted to Moray Council in July 2021 for the new esplanade side footbridge. The design was 250 ft long and 10 ft wide - much wider than the now defunct Seatown bridge. It would arch over the River Lossie at a gradient of 1:20 and be made from steel coated with fluoropolymer and decking boards made from wood effect composite materials.
The new bridge supports buggies and would be accessible for wheelchairs, and it is hoped that beach wheelchairs will be on offer for use soon.
The building of Lossiemouth's new bridge
In March 2022, work began on the new bridge to great excitement in the local community. Local photographers documented to process in great detail, and a live stream of the build process was made available by a kind local so those elsewhere in the world could view the progress of the new footbridge.
It was a fascinating process, first seeing the pile-driven columns being pushed into the ground and earthworks carried out on both sides of the river.
The most interesting part was when the bridge arrived in three sections, ready to be lifted into place. A huge yellow crane arrived to place each of the sections into place painstakingly. The crane was so big I could see it from Buckie across the Moray Firth!
It was amazing watching the project come to fruition via the live stream.
The grand opening
Mairi Gougeon MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, opened the bridge on the 31st of May 2022, joined by the oldest and youngest pupils from St Gerardine and Hythehill Primary Schools.
Commenting on the project Mairi Gougeon MSP said:
"The Moray coast has long been a popular destination for locals and visitors and the loss of the Lossiemouth East Bridge has taken its toll on the local community in recent years. That is why the Scottish Government has invested £1.8 million of funding to replace the old bridge. The new bridge is fully accessible, including for buggies and wheelchairs, making the beach available to all.
It is great that the new bridge is now officially open and that locals and visitors are easily able to access such a beautiful and scenic spot once more.”
Alan MacDonald, Chair of Lossiemouth Community Development Trust, commented:
"This is an exciting and historic day for the town as we celebrate the opening of a magnificent new bridge, which will be used to welcome townsfolk and visitors onto one of the finest beaches in Scotland".
Dismantling the old bridge
Sadly, because the old footbridge could not be repaired, it was decided the top part of the bridge should be dismantled, but the wooden supports would remain to save money.
Lossiemouth East Beach is an absolutely stunning section of the Moray Coast. The sand dunes can give a natural wind barrier, making this beach very sheltered depending on wind direction.
From its golden shores, you can see all the way around the bay to coastal settlements, including Garmouth, Kingston, Portgordon and Buckie and the prominent rounded Bin of Cullen. East Beach is about 7 miles long from Lossiemouth to Kingston.
The River Lossie runs opposite the sand dunes, and here it's possible to see Osprey hunting.
Access to the East Beach restored in less than three years with the completion of the bridge is a fantastic achievement.
Visiting the new Lossiemouth Bridge
My family and I had our first visit to the new footbridge at the end of July 2022. It was lovely getting ice cream from Meile's and then walking over the river for the first time. There was so much activity, from people paddleboarding under the bridge to families playing on the beach - a sight not seen for a few years! A great atmosphere during a busy holiday season.
Here are some photos of the remnants of the old bridge; hopefully, wildlife will take them over and find a use for them.
Lossiemouth old bridge
The first bridge to the east beach was built on July 23rd 1908 but had to be moved due to increased fishing operations at Lossie; boats were restricted from reaching the upper harbour area. The new footbridge was built at Seatown and has been continuously used from 1918 until 2015.
When did Lossiemouth Bridge close?
The original bridge closed in 1915, and the more modern bridge closed in July 2019.
When was the Lossiemouth bridge built?
Bridges to the east beach were built in 1908, 1918 and 2022.
Can you access Lossiemouth Beach?
Yes, the east beach is now fully accessible via the brand-new footbridge accessed from the esplanade.
How much did the Lossiemouth Bridge cost?
The Scottish Government supplied £1.8 million for the design and construction of the bridge.
The original Lossiemouth Bridge closed in 1915.
The modern bridge closed in July 2019.
Lossiemouth Community Development Trust was established to find a solution to replace the now defunct bridge.
The brand-new footbridge opened in 2022.
The new bridge cost £1.8 million.
Beaver Bridges built the new Lossiemouth Bridge.
The bridge connects the esplanade to the east beach.
It's amazing how quickly this bridge was built after the old bridge's closure. Massive credit must be given to the Lossiemouth Community Development Trust and other associated groups. From closure in 2019 to a brand new functional bridge in early 2022 is an amazing achievement.
A big thank you to Alan Butterfield for permission to use many of his bridge photos.
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