The Millennium Commission has urged Carlisle City Council to proceed with the £1.8m Hadrian's Bridge, despite a council vote to scrap it last month.
The commission has also refused to release the £740 000 allocated for Hadrian's bridge to be spent on the remainder of Carlisle's Millennium project – the completed Irishgate bridge and the underground gallery and rotunda at Carlisle castle, due to be finished in August.

In a strongly worded letter to the council's chief executive, Millennium Commission director Mike O'Connor said: "The loss of the bridge will, I believe, be seen as a real loss and failure of the imagination. We had hoped that Carlisle Council was committed to delivering a high quality project which would have provided an important link between communities in Carlisle." The commission has also refused the council a further grant of £145 750 requested on 23 January 2001 for the other millennium projects "on the basis that they could not justify paying more grant for less project".

Councillors voted to abandon the competition-winning scheme by Studio E Architects last month because of a cash-flow crisis.

Studio E Architects welcomed the move. A statement said: "We are pleased that the quality of the design and its potential for becoming an international landmark has been recognised and reinforced." A spokeperson for Carlisle council said it would consider all the correspondence in support of the bridge at a meeting on 6 March.

A spokeperson for the Labour group said: "Hadrian's Bridge was the most popular part of the Millennium project locally."