Call for talks on the future of Old Bridge
Town councillors have called for more information on the structural stability of Berwick's 17th century Old Bridge.
Concerns have been raised about the apparent deterioration of the Grade I-listed bridge in recent months after fresh cracks appeared.
Northumberland County Council has provided assurances that while there are some defects, there is no immediate significant risk to the structure.
It also revealed the bridge is earmarked for work in the 2017/18 financial year.
It has led to speculation that the bridge could eventually be closed to traffic and raised the question of what impact it would have on congestion and trade, especially in the lower part of the town.
Cllr Gregah Roughead, speaking at Berwick Town Council’s meeting on Monday, said: “I would like the county council to do an inspection and publicly report any structural concerns because we’ve had an increase in the number of people reporting cracks.”
He also called on the county council to set up a working group of interested parties to assess whether it should be pedestrianised or not.
Cllr Georgina Hill said: “I am no fan of Northumberland County Council but even I didn’t think they would be incompetent enough to let it fall into the River Tweed.”
Cllr Eric Goodyer called for an urgent meeting with the county council’s bridges manager, Simon Rudman.
He said: “I am seriously concerned. Maybe from an engineering point of view it’s fine but if we get another flash flood and a tree trunk gets stuck in the wrong place it could be in trouble.
“We need to talk about the traffic issue and it needs a full and proper debate.”
A recommendation to pedestrianise the bridge, with the exception of cyclists, is contained in the county council’s draft sustainable travel plan for Berwick.
But local resident Brian Darling called on members to ensure a traffic strategy is in place before that decision is taken.
Councillors felt the likely closure of the bridge for repairs in 2017/18 would provide a good opportunity to assess the impact on congestion and trade.
“It’s a good time to do an analysis of traffic management,” said Cllr Goodyer.
A different view was put forward by former county councillor Brian Douglas, now sheriff.
He said: “I think we should restore the Old Bridge to two-way traffic and put a pedestrian walkway on to each buttress. We need to look at ways of restoring the town centre to how it was years ago. The partial pedestrianisation of Marygate hasn’t worked and we’ve got to find a way of bringing people back in.”