Deputy Lieutenant, Joan Cowe, attends the opening ceremony of the new bridge with husband, John Cowe

Deputy Lieutenant, Joan Cowe, attends the opening ceremony of the new bridge with husband, John Cowe

LOSSIEMOUTH has reclaimed its famous East Beach for the first time in nearly three years after the opening of a new £1.8 million bridge.

The sun was beating down as Mairi Gougeon MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs cut the ribbon with the help of the oldest and youngest pupils at the town’s primary schools.

The pipe band from Lossiemouth High played as Aiden Ingram (12) and Lola Thomson (5), St Gerardine, and Jordan Muir (12) and Ruby Watts (5), from Hythehill, walked across the bridge with the Cabinet Secretary on Tuesday.

It was a celebratory and feelgood atmosphere as councillors, community representatives and others involved in the seven year campaign for a new bridge, made their way to the East Beach.

Constructed by Beaver Bridges and funded by the Scottish Government, the new bridge replaces the old wooden structure downstream which was closed in the summer of 2019 due to safety concerns.

The beach has been off limits since then, except to paddleboarders, surfers and those walkers willing to make a lengthy detour.

Hundreds of members of the public who had turned out to watch followed the VIPs across the bridge for an experience few have had in the last three years.

An economic study said the town was losing up to £1.5 million a year in lost tourism and business income, so the opening of the bridge is a timely boost.

Speaking after crossing the bridge to the beach, Ms Gougeon said: “This is definitely a good day at the office, or out of the office should I say. The weather has been arranged for it to, so it is fantastic.

“It surprised me when I came in to Lossiemouth to see the sheer numbers who had turned out to see this. It is clear just how important this project is to the local community.

“We know there has been a massive impact from the bridge being closed, whether that’s tourism, local businesses and the local community who haven’t been able to access this amazing natural asset which is right on the doorstep.

“We have been trying to encourage people to get outdoors and access outdoor spaces and the community has been cut off from the East Beach here.”

Asked whether she had time for a quick dip,she added: “I think it’s still a bit too nippy for that even although the sun is shining.”

Cllr Marc Macrae, convener of Moray Council, which has taken on ownership of the bridge for future maintenance, said: “The sun is shining on us and it is a fantastic morning in Lossie. Everybody has waited three years for this.

“To see this bridge open and people back on the beach it’s the day everybody has waited for. It is absolutely brilliant.
“So many people come to Lossie and they are drawn by many things and it is great that people can now come back. Lossie is very much open for business and they can look forward to a fantastic summer on the beach.

“East beach has always been popular with the surfers, all manner of sporting activities, dog walkers and it has been a long detour to get on to the beach.”

Alan MacDonald, chairman of the Lossiemouth Community Development Trust, which spearheaded the local campaign to get the new crossing, said: “This is truly a momentous day for Lossiemouth, to have the bridge back again and people able to walk across freely.

“Everyone is buzzing and so many people came down to see the opening and to go across a bridge for the first time in three years.
“The economic impact that was undertaken said we were losing up to £1.5 million per annum across the town. That’s an awful lot of money for a small town like Lossie to contend with.

“The novelty factor (of the bridge) will bring a lot more people this year.

“For mental health and social reasons it is also terrific. It is absolutely amazing.”

Rab Forbes, a member of the community trust who was a driving force in securing the new bridge, said: “I am delighted. After three years it is good to be back on the beach.”

And he had a simple message for anyone who has struggled with the pandemic, cost of living crisis or other challenges in life.

“When you cross the bridge leave your troubles at this side for a while and enjoy the beach. You can pick them up again when you come back.”

Mr MacDonald said Mr Forbes in particular had put his “heart and soul” into the campaign.

Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said: “The official opening of the new bridge marks a new dawn for Lossiemouth, and there’s no doubt it’s been a long awaited and emotional day for many in the local community.

“I’m so proud that the Scottish Government responded to the community campaign and stepped in to the fund the new bridge to restore access to the iconic East Beach.

“The new bridge is more than just a structure – it’s a symbol of togetherness, optimism and hope as we emerge from an incredibly difficult few years. In response to good news, it’s often said there will be dancing on the streets but in this case it will be dancing on the beach!

“I know that folk in Lossie and across Moray are desperate to cross the new bridge and get back on that beautiful beach.”

Peter Dalzell, managing director of Shropshire-based Beaver Bridges, which builds around 150 bridges a year, said people had connected to this special community-driven project.

He said the company founders Jo and Henry Beaver went to school locally at Gordonstoun and spent many summers playing on the East Beach.

The construction phase had been followed day by day with a Bridge Cam which allowed people to chart the progress.

For the first time in nearly three years people crossed the Lossie to the East Beach. Picture: Daniel ForsythFor the first time in nearly three years people crossed the Lossie to the East Beach. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

Mr Dalzell said engineers from the firm now plan to talk in local schools about construction and engineering, using the bridge as an example.

The company helped sponsor a public access defibrillator, provided by Keiran’s Legacy, on the esplanade side of the bridge.

The 75 metre long bridge has been built with British steel and has a long-plastic plastic decking.

The team from Beaver Bridges will return to Lossiemouth next week to begin the process of dismantling the old wooden bridge, which will take around a week.