Closing ‘vital’ Essex village bridge could ‘cost lives’

Bridge campaigners Peter and Mary Curry and Jane Welsh with Braintree MP James Cleverly,

Bridge campaigners Peter and Mary Curry and Jane Welsh with Braintree MP James Cleverly, - Credit: Archant

The cost of closing Finchingfield Bridge could be counted in bodies, according to the village’s health centre.

Linda Cutts, practice manager at Freshwell Health Centre in the village, has written to National Health England saying that the proposed 15 mile diversion while the bridge is closed for repair for several months “could result in patient deaths”.

The villagers are calling for a temporary bridge instead of a diversion. Mrs Cutts wrote: “We would not be able to reach our patients in the event of an emergency and other emergency services would inevitably fail to respond within designated times.”

She added that despite emailing Essex County Council on August 4, there has been no response.

She said: “This request for information followed messages left at the surgery from residents worried about their medical care. It is vital that we have up to date and accurate information to effectively plan our response to any major local changes.”

She added: “Freshwell Health Centre serves patients within a radius of 10 miles. We have almost 7,000 patients registered here. A long term closure of the route through Finchingfield village would cut our area in half.

“At present there are rumours that the bridge could be shut for several months. This would make it extremely difficult for many of our residents to access our services. It would cause severe disruption to our GP visits and interrupt the work of the community team, carers and first responders.”

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Mrs Cutts ends her letter by saying: “We would like to be involved in any discussions or decision on this proposed closure. We believe that a temporary bridge would be the only viable option.”

As reported in the Broadcast last week, the officer in charge of nearby Wethersfield Fire Station, Darren Hockley has written to the Highways Department of Essex County Council also saying lives will be at risk.

A spokesman for the council said last week that there would be a public consultation. But Jane Welsh, joint manager at Finchingfield Post Office where the protest began, told the Broadcast on Monday: “There has been no response to our emails. The council says it is consulting with the public but they haven’t spoken to anyone who comes into my shop. We don’t know who they are talking to or who they are consulting with.”

Councillor Eddie Johnson, Cabinet Member for Highways Maintenance and Small Scheme Delivery at Essex County Council, said: “We are in the process of discussions with interested parties in relation to essential maintenance work on Finchingfield bridge.

“So far we have made a decision in principle but this marks just the beginning of a dialogue with stakeholders which will continue over the coming months until work is scheduled to begin in July 2016. I can assure residents that no work will take place until we have considered all the issues and ideas, and are confident the appropriate contingencies are in place.”