Concerns over continued closure of Bungay bridge
- Credit: Andrew Atterwill
A bridge close to a popular water sport spot and community centre remains closed as the owner and district council continue to work out its future.
The privately-owned Millstream Bridge, in Bungay, has been closed since early January 2021 after concerns about damage caused during the winter floods sparked bigger fears over damage believed to have been caused by traffic.
Concerns had been raised about emergency access to the Riverside Centre, and surrounding buildings, at the Staithe in Bungay following the bridge's closure, with Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service descending on the area for a training exercise on Tuesday evening.
Bungay Town Mayor John Adams said: "We are concerned that the bridge remains closed and, while we don't currently own any of the land, we have been talking with the various user groups and working very hard with East Suffolk Council who are trying to resolve this matter."
East Suffolk Council own the land at the Staithe, including the public car park next to the Riverside Centre.
The bridge, however, is owned by Tim Child, along with other watermill residents, who claim the group have offered to sell the bridge to East Suffolk Council for £1 to resolve the matter, adding the bridge had seen "unprecedented demand" last summer as crowds took to the water.
Mr Child said: "At the moment the bridge is closed to road vehicles because it’s unsafe for them to use it. That’s not our verdict but that of the Environment Agency survey team.
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"So the priority right now is to get it mended and, depending on how effective those repairs may be, decisions can then be taken on its future going forward.
"The watermill residents have made no secret that their preference is to transfer ownership by either equity or leasehold, to East Suffolk District Council, which has been operating the oversubscribed and undermanaged, car park, which is leading to the unprecedented level of access fuelled by the booming practice of paddle-boarding and Inflatable canoeing.
"At one point we recorded 600 traffic movements in one day.
"That demand isn’t going away in future, so whatever happens going forward, there will have to be better and more effective controls over traffic, or the bridge will just get damaged again, and we’ll be looking at more closures."
A spokesperson for East Suffolk Council said the matter was being dealt with "at the highest level" within the council.
They said: "We are fully aware of the issues that are being caused by the refusal by the owner of the bridge to permit us to use our right of access across the bridge.
"We consider that Bungay Town Council is best placed to oversee an important local asset such as this and, as such, we continue to pursue our objective of reaching a long-term agreement with the owner for the upkeep and maintenance of the bridge in order that we can complete the transfer of the land we own at the Staithe to Bungay Town Council, so that the land and buildings remain available for use by the public and existing occupiers.
"We are determined to find a solution here and will not tolerate the infringement of our access rights as we are seeing at the moment.
"It is not fair on East Suffolk Council, Bungay Town Council, the existing occupiers or the community of Bungay and we will explore all avenues necessary to bring about a resolution."
They added the council is not in a position to put a timescale on when the situation will be resolved as this is dependent on the co-operation of the owner of the bridge, and Bungay Town Council cannot take ownership of the land until the current situation is resolved.
Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, along with colleagues from Norfolk, carried out a Fire Safety Risk Assessment at the Staithe on Tuesday evening, September 21, with crews from Bungay, Beccles, Harleston and Loddon attending.
Mr Child added emergency service vehicles were unable to cross the bridge when it was open due to the weight limit in place, although the bridge remains open to pedestrians.