'Nightmare' for coastal businesses as footbridge to close over summer
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
The footbridge connecting Southwold and Walberswick is to close for three months this summer, despite concerns it would damage coastal businesses in their recovery from the Covid lockdown.
The Bailey bridge over the River Blyth connects the two resorts, but is need of repairs after a 2018 report uncovered "severe corrosion" in its support beams.
An independent inspection of the structure was carried out last month and it has been advised that the revamp is carried out this summer.
The bridge will shut at the end of June and reopen in the autumn.
John Clements, head of operational highways at Suffolk County Council, said the bridge is an "incredibly important structure" and explained the revamp needed to be completed in milder conditions.
He said: "We fully recognise that the timing of this closure presents a challenge, especially in light of the lockdown easing.
"However, this has been the first opportunity at which we have been able to carry out the works following recent confirmation of budget and the need for mild weather conditions to carry out the work safely and effectively.
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"We are pleased that the Bailey bridge has continued to serve our communities over the past couple of years since the temporary repairs were carried out. However, now it is time for a full refurbishment."
David Beavan, town and district councillor for Southwold, understood the revamp needed to be carried out - but expressed his frustration at the timing.
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He said: "This is going to be a nightmare for the businesses. I'm really disappointed we can't do something like a pontoon over the river.
"Everyone if flabbergasted why it wasn't done last year.
"Let's hope they maintain it better than they did before."
Mark Dorber, who manages the Anchor pub in Walberswick, said the closure will prevent tourists from visiting the village this summer.
He said: "It's almost impossible to predict a more damaging time. I'm beside myself with incredible frustration.
"It will affect plenty of disadvantaged people, as well as tourists in the area.
"We missed a golden opportunity to close the bridge for repairs earlier in the year. This is working against the economic measures of central government to help the county unlock."