26th September 2018
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Residents planning ‘party’ for long-awaited bridge re-opening

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Forget the royal wedding, the residents of one Unst community are planning a street party to celebrate their new bridge.

The Coutts Mill Brig on an unclassified road in Uyeasound was closed more than a year ago when the council deemed it unsafe.

Now a bridge fit for a king has been installed and locals are planning a ceremony to mark the occasion.

When the ancient bridge over the Coutts Mill burn on the minister’s road was put out of bounds after council workers mending potholes spotted its condition, residents were forced to take the long way round to get into Uyeasound. That meant using a narrow road with no passing places.

One pick-up vehicle was damaged, there were many near misses and council expenses soared as care workers claimed their extra mileage.

Appeals to the council for a speedy resolution to the situation were met with regal blandishments. It would be fixed in May or June (last year) residents were told – they were horrified it would take so long.

But that would have been a good deal, they realised later. When nothing seemed to be happening they removed the cones and drove across the bridge anyway. That gesture of defiance was met by a counter-attack of stone blocks. Then in September the bridge was dug up so that no-one could use it.

Word came down to the populace that the repair would be no ordinary job – the new bridge, when it came, would have reinforced concrete beams, specially designed for its important place in the isle’s infrastructure.

Time marched on and the council workers were called away to gritting duties. But the beams eventually arrived from Taunton, Somerset, and were duly laid, forming a bridge much wider than the road, plus a footpath with either side.

The installation encouraged locals, who baked a cake and celebrated the project’s first birthday on 16th March on the half-finished bridge.

Things have moved on, however, and relieved residents can now drive across the “massive” bridge even though it needs another layer of tarmac. They can also walk across the footpaths, even though there are no verges or anywhere to set foot on either side.

Having graciously written a letter of apology to the subjects, the council admits the provision may be “overgenerous”. But the bridge had to have a “safety margin” so that pedestrians could meet a car and not be “squashed against the barrier”. And the safety margin had to have a safety barrier to stop anyone falling into the burn.

According to roads chief Ian Halcrow the beams are of “very high quality” concrete and will last much longer than anything that could have been produced locally, 50 years possibly.

The union of pre-cast beams and walkway are a clearly a happy marriage and the feelgood factor has rubbed off on locals. “We’re planning an official opening,” said resident Cheryl Jamieson.

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About Rosalind Griffiths

I am a Shetland Times reporter covering news, including health stories, and features. I have been in Shetland for more than 30 years.

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