The Borough Road footbridge isn’t ‘nearing the end of its lifespan’ as the council’s head of environment Phil Scott said in response to the Save Our Bridge protest, (News Guardian, January 3).
The bridge’s design life is 120 years, as the council’s advisors have stated, and they have also shown how the bridge could be good for another 40 years.
So the bridge is only two-thirds through its design life: too soon to get rid of it. Other 80-year-old bridges are still working fine.
North Tyneside Council’s mistake means it can’t face finding £650,000 for a new bridge, which isn’t necessary anyway.
And it doesn’t realise how the planned circa 2,000 new Smith’s Dock residents, plus opening Prince Consort Way linking the centre of Royal Quays community to the footbridge and the New Quay, will significantly increase use of the bridge.
It’s already well-used by local residents, and visitors on a Tyneside trail.
The council wants to spend at least another £65,000 (probably a lot more when its full estimates are disclosed), on top of what it has already paid consultants, while impartial Historic England’s advice was free (and correct), to demolish the footbridge when £100,000 now, and spread out between 2025-2055 about £190,000, will keep the bridge open for another 40 years.
It is officially called Capita/North Tyneside’s ‘Do Minimum’ option.
Residents were told that past poor attempts at maintenance had made matters worse.
Back in 2013 the council/Capita’s Special Inspection Report found the bridge “generally in a fair condition... although there are several defects which need addressing”.
Some of these had already been identified in 2011, but no actions were taken, and ‘as a consequence, some of these defects have now deteriorated in both extent and severity’.
The 2013 report still recommended full repair to bring the bridge to a good standard, not demolition, nor costly replacement.
When mistakes of omission or commission are made, one might expect them to be put right.
National planning policy makes clear that neglect and the deteriorated state of a heritage asset, like the bridge, is no justification for a planning application decision to demolish it.
Relatively modest amounts spread over 40 years (not £650,000 right now) would solve the problem and keep the bridge open.