A CHARITY needs thousands of pounds to save an iconic structure at risk of disrepair.

The Northern Viaduct Trust has launched an online campaign called 'Save Smardale Viaduct’ to raise an initial £90,000 to repair Smardale Gill Viaduct, which is located west of Kirkby Stephen.

A recent survey of the 19th century viaduct revealed that water penetration had caused significant damage to the 90-foot structure’s stonework.

Engineers have advised the trust -which formed in 1989 to preserve the viaduct for future generations - that work must be carried out in the next 12 months to waterproof the deck and install new drainage to prevent further deterioration.

Major work will then need to be carried out to repair several of the stone piers.

The estimated cost of the vital work to preserve the 150-year-old bridge is estimated at £1million, with the first phase - waterproofing and re-surfacing the deck - costing £90,000.

“We’re told it’s currently perfectly safe,” said Northern Viaduct Trust ‘s chair, Neil Cleeveley.

“But if we don’t do anything as the years go by it will be less so.

“The waterproofing is the top priority, we need to do that urgently; our engineers are saying within 12 months.

“But that might be a stretch in terms of finding the money and getting contractors on site to do the work.”

If the money cannot be found, Mr Cleeveley said the viaduct would ‘eventually become unusable.’

“It would become a danger,” he added.

“We’d have to stop people walking across it but I think we’re quite some time away from that.”

Not only is the viaduct a popular historic feature that attracts visitors from across the country, but it is also ‘vital’ for people wishing to access the surrounding landscape.

“Local people and tourists use it-it’s vital for people to access the landscape,” said Mr Cleeveley.

So far the response from the public has been ‘absolutely amazing’ and has so far raised just over £1,000.

The trust relies on donations from the public but will also be looking at applying for grants.

“We’ve had lots of lovely messages from people and we really appreciate the support,” added Mr Cleeveley.

To donate visit www.justgiving.com/campaign/savesmardalegillviaduct