Villagers find Essex County Council report recommending temporary Finchingfield bridge

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

Villagers fighting for a temporary bridge in Finchingfield have uncovered a council report recommending an interim crossing while works are carried out on the village’s existing structure.

As there is no convenient diversion route for traffic, a temporary crossing would be necessary if work was carried out on its bridge – this is the wording of a report made for Essex County Council five years ago.

Despite the 2010 recommendation, today the people of Finchingfield are having to battle for a temporary bridge.

Instead, Essex County Council has said all traffic must make a 15-mile detour around winding country lanes when the bridge closes for four months from July to November next year.

The report was placed on ECC’s website by the Highways Authority last week.

The study was prepared for the council by the international infrastructure consultants Mouchel. The exact wording of the paragraph about the temporary bridge is: “If the decision were taken to proceed with any of these strengthening or replacement options, then it would inevitably be necessary to close the bridge for several months. Since there is no convenient diversion route for traffic, the works would sensibly require the installation of a temporary bridge.”

Residents of one of the most photographed and visited villages in England – who face it being cut in two – are now baffled as to why this recommendation has been ignored. They also believe it strengthens their campaign for a temporary bridge.

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They are puzzled because at a public meeting called by Finchingfield Parish Council nine days ago, on Tuesday, November 17, county councillor Eddie Johnson, responsible for highways, told 400 angry people: “I don’t have the money for a temporary bridge.”

Cllr Johnson said he will reconsider his stance at the end of the meeting after 90 minutes of being barracked. The villagers want to know why the council has chosen the most expensive of the three options outline in the report to repair the bridge.

This includes doubling its width and adding a footpath. The original report is about strengthening the bridge, not widening it.

Alex Robinson, who runs the village post office, told the Broadcast: “We want to know who the widening will benefit. They are not fixing it for its current use. They are widening it for another use. We don’t want the road widened, it will just mean that bigger lorries can go through faster through our little village and that is dangerous.” She added: “We want to know why they have chosen the most expensive of the three options in the report, to knock it down and replace it.”

Meanwhile, the bridge closure was discussed yet again at a parish council meeting on Tuesday night.

Councillor Graham Tobbell, parish council chairman, said: “The public meeting was very positive. Many people contributed but we all spoke with one voice. We have only just been made aware of this study. This information is news to us but it is welcome news. We want to keep up the momentum and I will be writing to Councillor Eddie Johnson to confirm our position.”

A spokesman for Essex County Council said: “We have to close the bridge in Bridge Street, Finchingfield, as it is necessary to carry out vital strengthening and maintenance work.

“Following on from the public meeting on November 17, we are currently reviewing the feedback from villagers including the request for a temporary structure and we will provide more information when all the options have been considered.”