LUCY'S Mill Bridge in Stratford-upon-Avon is in danger of being "closed down at any time" and urgently needs replacing, according to a residents’ association attempting to raise funds for a feasibility study into how it might be replaced.
At a recent special meeting, called specifically to discuss the future of the pedestrian walkway over the River Avon near the Seven Meadows Road, Lloyd Beesley from residents association Stratford Voice said: “If there was an accident, that would be the end of the bridge straight away.”
This is because the narrow bridge, which Stratford Voice believe is dangerous, is inaccessible to wheelchair users, not to mention cyclists and parents with prams.
However, despite support from the Mayor of Stratford, Cllr Keith Lloyd, and Stratford Town Council, whose planning committee met on Monday to listen to Mr Beesley, it appears nobody is willing to lead the campaign at the moment.
Mr Beesley said up to £15,000 needed to be raised simply for a professional study into whether Lucy’s Mill Bridge can be replaced at that site. Actually rebuilding the bridge would cost a lot more —£1.8 million was earmarked in 2008 to build a new pedestrian bridge but the idea was abandoned because of spiralling costs and local opposition.
Both the town council and Stratford Voice are keen to rebuild Lucy’s Mill Bridge, but only in its current location.
Mr Beesley is confident that the feasibility study, which would be undertaken by Sustrans, the charity which enables people to travel by foot, bike or public transport, will come down in their favour, concluding that a new bridge with disabled access would be able to be built on the site. “All the indications are that it can be,” he said.
However, there are concerns that there is simply not enough land beside Lucy’s Mill to accommodate the slope necessary for a bridge without steps.
Mr Beesley admitted to the council: “It would leave us with egg on our face if we’ve been wasting our time and your time.” Not to mention wasting up to £15,000.
Stratford Voice visited the town council to encourage them to lead the fundraising campaign, Mr Beesley arguing there were more grant opportunities for councils than his residents association.
He had previously attempted to get two other unknown bodies to lead the charge, both said no.
There was also the suggestion that some of the council’s money, Stratford taxpayers’ money, may be contributed to the study.
Although council members agreed to discuss the possibility of leading the project at their next full council meeting on 20th November, concerns were raised that they were also not the right body to take the campaign on.
Lobbying the town council, Mr Beesley said Stratford Town Trust had previously committed to granting 50 per cent of what was needed for a feasibility study.
However, when the trust was contacted the Herald was told that no such promise had been made.
Even if the feasibility study did conclude it was possible to rebuild Lucy’s Mill Bridge, where would the millions of pounds needed for that come from?
The £1.8 million earmarked in 2008 was shared among projects, including the installation of the feature lights on the Tramway Bridge and to cover extra costs associated with the enhancement of Waterside and the re-landscaping of the Bancroft Gardens.
Mr Beesley said Warwickshire County Council, who own Lucy’s Mill Bridge, had “informally” told him that should the feasibility study recommend rebuilding it, the council would stump up 50 per cent of the cost. He admitted however, that the council was quite content to leave the bridge how it is at the moment.
“Warwickshire County Council have said ‘thanks, but no thanks’ at the current time, but if a new bridge could be DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) compliant they will get on board.”
The mayor said: “So if the county council are pushed, they will give?” Mr Beesley said yes.
Before that is even a possibility, someone needs to take the lead and find funding for the feasibility study, and that study needs to come out in favour of rebuilding the bridge.
The town council is meeting at 6.15pm on Tuesday (20th November), to decide whether to lead the Lucy’s Mill Bridge campaign.
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