Further investigation due over Finchingfield bridge

Braintree MP James Cleverly,

Braintree MP James Cleverly, - Credit: Archant

After just a week, there are 1,200 signatures on the petition calling for a temporary bridge to replace the historic Finchingfield Bridge when it is closed for repair next year.

Villagers in the picturesque village are campaigning to prevent Essex County Council “cutting the village in half” when the bridge is put out of action for four months from July, facing traffic with a 15-mile diversion along country lanes.

The petition objects to the diversion and also to the council’s scheme for widening the bridge, which will mean it can take even heavier lorries.

If the petition gathers 2,000 signatures then the county councillor responsible for highways, Eddie Johnson must reply to it. If it gains 14,000 names then the whole council must debate it.

Postmistress Alex Robinson said: “All the business have been collecting forms and bringing them when they are filled and taking more, because this means a lot to people. We also have a box full of slips filled in cut out from the Dunmow Broadcast.

“We had one postcard from an elderly man who wrote: ‘Please add me to your list of protestors. I lived in Finchingfield when I was a child and still regard it as part of my life, even if I am over ninety.”

The village has kept up a campaign since August, which gathered momentum on Tuesday, November 17, when some 400 people packed the Church of St John the Baptist in the village to meet Councillor Johnson and express their views.

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One impassioned speech after another, from the manager of the health centre, the head of Finchingfield Primary School, and members of the emergency services, as well as erudite individuals, called for a temporary bridge to prevent a repeat of the accidents the previous when the bridge was closed a week in October after a truck hit a wall.

Residents described how being forced to use alternative roads had led to lorries in ditches and people’s front drives being churned to mud. They also described the thousands of extra miles people had driven that week, how patients couldn’t get to the doctors’ surgery and children had difficulty getting to school.

Also, some businesses said if it had carried on they would have closed down.

Meanwhile, Councillor Johnson has now replied to a formal letter from Councillor Graham Tobbell, chairman of Finchingfield Parish Council putting the village’s case for the temporary bridge.

Cllr Johnson said: “I am pleased to say that we met with specialist engineers and can confirm that we have been given options to review and consider.

“However, in order for us to consider these options in detail, we need to carry out some further investigations into the early New Year period.

“I am keen to find a solution that will address the concerns of the community as well as providing Finchingfield with a bridge that is both safe, affordable and respects the special scenic quality of the area. I will provide Finchingfield Parish Council with a further update on progress in the New Year.”

Those signing the petition should be 12 or over and live, work or study within Essex.

Sign the petition at http://cmis.essexcc.gov.uk/essexcmis5/Petitions/tabid/106/ID/60/finchingfield-Bridge.aspx