Village traders suffer and there's trouble for traffic as bridge closes
PUBLISHED: 08:38 21 February 2019 | UPDATED: 10:49 25 February 2019
The five-day closure of Finchingfield Bridge has left roads in "chaos" with car crashes and businesses suffering, residents have reported.
Villagers, commuters and residents of nearby villages depend on the bridge, on the Bl053, which connects two halves of Finchingfield and has been closed since Monday.
An official diversion route has been put in place for vehicles, including HGVs, however drivers are using local roads instead, to cut their journey time, leading to “chaos”.
Martin du Preez, owner of Falcon Tree Specialists, says that on Monday his vehicle was hit by a van driving around a corner going at 40mph, sending him “flying back”.
Mr du Preez, 25, said there had been two other collisions on local tracks on the first day of the closure and that traffic on the local roads had increased “tenfold” since Monday.
As a result of the collision, he has lost business because the damaged van is currently being repaired.
Mr du Preez said: “There have been three collisions in one day. What is that number going to be over five months and when is that going to turn into fatalities?”
Essex Highways has closed the bridge in order to carry out repair work and gather information needed to inform future plans for the bridge, which they say is deteriorating.
Trade has been down by 80 per cent at Finchingfield Post Office since the closure began, co-owner Alex Robinson said, warning that her business would not survive if the bridge was shut for months.
Ms Robinson said: “We have had the bridge shut before. Every time it happens we know effectively all our passing trade disappears and half of the local trade because they are over the other side of the bridge.
“We can survive a week because it’s a fairly successful business but what we cannot survive is if they shut the bridge for months as they are proposing to do.
“I can’t underestimate how important it (the bridge) is. It is the only crossing point over the river. It is why Finchingfield exists. That is what brings everybody here.”
She added: “I am sitting here looking outside at the daffodils. There is not a single car going by. It is absolutely dead.”
Jacqui Braithwaite, owner of The Finchingfield Lion pub, described Finchingfield as a “ghost town” and said the bridge being closed for months would “kill the village”.
She explained that a table of eight had cancelled their booking because of the closure and commuters who drive through Finchingfield on their way home and stop at her pub were nowhere to be seen on Monday evening.
Ms Braithwaite said: “For a week, we will put up with it. They have been saying the closure will last five months or nine months. It is what will be left after that worries me. Once a village has lost a pub it won’t come back.”
Ms Robinson, Ms Braithwaite and Mr Du Preez all said a temporary bridge should be built while the permanent bridge was repaired.
Although the option of installing a temporary bridge had been discussed, Essex Highways said, it was agreed it would be less disruptive for the works to be carried out with a road closure.
A spokesman said: “As with every other road closure, we designate and signpost an official diversion route, which must be suitable for similar vehicles to those that could use the closed road.
“If local or other drivers choose to find their own routes, that is their prerogative, but all the usual speed limits and common sense for driving on sometimes narrow rural roads should be observed.
“We are aware of one recent collision involving a van in the area, but have no information about the circumstances.
“Essex Highways engineers are working closely with Finchingfield Parish Council, Braintree District Council and others to find the best way to manage the necessary long-term re-building of the bridge. Details can be found on our website”.
The Broadcast reported in September that replacing the bridge, as Highways Essex plans to do, could take up to five months, with no plans to build a temporary crossing. in its place.