Old Bridge safety fears are allayed

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Fears about the safety of Berwick’s Old Bridge have been eased despite the appearance of fresh cracks in the 17th century structure.

The apparent deterioration of the Grade I listed bridge in recent months had led to calls from some town councillors for traffic to be stopped.

But a spokesperson for Northumberland County Council said: “We can understand that people may be concerned about the external appearance of some parts of the bridge.

“However we can provide reassurance that whilst there are some defects, there is no immediate significant risk to the structure.

“The defects are long standing and we currently inspect the structure for any significant change in condition every six months.

“The bridge is earmarked for work as part of the £6.7million Government Challenge Funding we received, which involves 130 bridge masonry arches being repaired across the county.

“The work in Berwick is likely to be in the 2017/2018 financial year. We will be liaising closely with the town council before any work takes place.”

The latest problems with the bridge were reported to Historic England and the county council, which has responsibility for maintaining it, by Cllr Eric Goodyer who called for a temporary road closure to allow a site investigation to be carried out.

He said: “If we do not get this bridge closed to traffic soon it will only take one tree caught in a flood hitting the support to let nature do the job for us.”

The crack is on the third arch from the Berwick side of the River Tweed. He also claimed that a section of the pedestrian refuge is coming away on two sides.

Fellow town councillors David Blackburn and Karin Graham are among those to have shared his concerns.

A recommendation to pedestrianise the bridge, with the exception of cyclists, is contained in the county council’s draft sustainable travel plan for Berwick. It is envisaged this could create a welcoming entrance to the Bridge Street area in a similar way to Elvet Bridge in Durham.

“This is an imaginative plan overall and needs to be brought in to the light of day,” said Cllr Goodyer. “It solves most of the parking issues, and creates a superb visitor entrance in to the main town centre, as well as uplifting (Tweedmouth) Main Street and Spittal.”

However, there are also fears that the bridge’s closure would cause traffic chaos.

In a recent letter to the paper, local residents Phil and Margery Noble revealed that they had carried out three half-day traffic surveys in which the bridge was used by 354 cars.

They said: “Maintaining the Old Bridge for vehicular use is vital for the welfare of the businesses, locals and visitors of Berwick.

“The real cost of losing the Old Bridge will be loss of revenue in and around Bridge Street and more traffic chaos as vehicles return back into town after some kind of bizarre turn around in an area of town where there is already congestion.”

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