East Anglia firm says it could deliver Finchingfield bridge repair at 10th of Essex County Council cost

Finchingfield. Picture: SaffronPhoto

Finchingfield. Picture: SaffronPhoto - Credit: Archant

An award-winning structural repair company has said it can strengthen Finchingfield Bridge – without the need for a diversion or a temporary bridge – for a tenth of the council’s quoted cost.

Finchingfield. Picture: SaffronPhoto

Finchingfield. Picture: SaffronPhoto - Credit: Archant

Anglia Civics says the work would take a month, cost between £50,000 and £60,000 and the repairs would be done from underneath so traffic could carry on.

So far, Essex County Council has refused to countenance a temporary bridge while the village’s ancient bridge is repaired, on grounds of cost.

As reported by the Broadcast last week, the council says its preferred option for bridge repairs would cost £650,000, or £850,000 with a temporary bridge.

The council’s plan would see the current bridge used for pedestrians and a new bridge to take vehicles.

Finchingfield. Picture: SaffronPhoto

Finchingfield. Picture: SaffronPhoto - Credit: Archant

Now Anglia Civics, based in Ipswich, says it can repair the old bridge for a fraction of that with no disruption to the village.

The firm has been repairing bridges and railway arches across the UK for the past 20 years and has already worked for Essex County Council.

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Company director Daniel Westhorpe told the Broadcast: “Finchingfield has a masonry arch bridge and I can’t see why it can’t be strengthened. We would reinforce it to take vehicles of 40 tonnes, the European standard. We would use a patented system already used on repairing railway arches at Chelmsford Railway Station, and bridges at Baker’s Lane, Colchester, Ingatestone and in Brentwood.”

“We have been to Finchingfield but we need the council’s permission to look underneath. So far, they have refused.”

He added: “After I read the story in the Broadcast in February, I emailed the officer who oversees the contracts at Essex. I didn’t get a reply. I have also emailed Ringway Jacobs, the council’s contractors.”

The council’s estimate of the cost of a temporary bridge has been called into question by residents. Architect Rob Wood last year obtained four quotes from specialist bridge companies. The highest of these was still half the amount quoted by the council.

Mr Wood said: “A temporary bridge is not the only option, a causeway would be even cheaper. The council is saying we need a bridge to take 40-tonne HGV vehicles but it says it is not altering the road to take faster traffic through the village.

“If that is the case, then why don’t they restrict the bridge to 18 tonnes? That would be enough for tourist coaches, buses and most farm equipment. There could be an exemption for farm vehicles during harvest.”

The county council has also failed to respond to an offer of a personal donation of £100,000 towards a temporary bridge from the chairman of Finchingfield Parish Council, Graham Tobbell and his wife Sue.

Mr Tobbell said: “The council has always argued on grounds of cost. We offer to meet half the extra cost and there is no reply. There is a feeling that this scheme is a Trojan horse to deliver a faster route through the village. At the moment, there is natural traffic calming as vehicles have to turn right and left before the bridge.”

Andrew Cook, director of transportation and infrastructure at ECC, said: “Engineers have inspected the condition of the current bridge in detail, and plans to build a new permanent bridge in the village in a style which is sympathetic to the original one are now advancing well.

“Following our discussions with Finchingfield Parish Council and residents, we recently held a public exhibition about the options we had considered. A survey was also sent out to gather views on the proposals and we have been reviewing the responses. We will continue to involve the parish council and the community right the way through the work.”