Petition started in fight for temporary Finchingfield bridge

PUBLISHED: 09:00 17 December 2015

Braintree MP James Cleverly,

Braintree MP James Cleverly,

Archant

Residents in what is described as Britain’s most photographed village have stepped up their campaign against Essex County Council who they say want to “cut their village in half”.

On Tuesday this week, a Finchingfield Bridge Preservation Society was formed and overnight its Facebook page got 3,000 hits.

Also overnight, a petition calling for a temporary bridge and for a halt to any changes to the original bridge – such as widening it to take heavier lorries – also received 200 signatures before dawn.

They are furious that when Finchingfield’s historic bridge is closed for repair next summer, for four months, they will be faced with a 15-mile diversion through tiny lanes instead of having a temporary bridge.

This is at the height of the visitors’ season and they have also argued passionately that they will be obstructed from emergency services, the GP practice and even getting to school.

The villagers are hoping for 2,000 signatures by January 31 in time for Essex County Council’s February meetings, which will mean Eddie Johnson, the councillor responsible for Highways, will have to reply to it.

The petition, which is online, available at Finchingfield Post Office and below, asks the county council for an immediately stop to all plans for work on Finchingfield Bridge, the crossing to not be substantially altered and for a temporary bridge to be installed.

Cllr Johnson addressed a packed meeting of 400 people at Finchingfield’s Church of St John the Baptist on November 17 and said he would consider the temporary bridge option but so far has not reached a decision.

If the petition gets 14,000 signatures, which it might because the bridge closure impacts on surrounding villages and into Suffolk, then the whole council must debate it.

It is understood that the budget for the bridge repair will not be signed off until March and the preservation society wants to have the matter raised at a full council meeting before that.

Postmistress Alex Robinson, founder member of The Finchingfield Bridge Preservation Society, said: “We thought Christmas was a good time to launch the petition because families will be at home together and they can discuss it.

“We have been helping people at the post office to access it because not everyone is comfortable with online petitions and we are also taking round paper versions.”

Firefighter Barry Gilbey, the society’s press spokesman, said: “The council’s plan is to almost double the width of the bridge. It’s being widened by over 10 feet. There has been no consultation over this. The original plan was to strengthen the bridge but it is not a simple matter of that.”

Those wishing to sign the petition should be 12 and 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.

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