Compromise required for bridge works

Latest environment news from the Haverhill Echo, haverhillecho.co.uk, @haverhill on Twitter
Latest environment news from the Haverhill Echo, haverhillecho.co.uk, @haverhill on Twitter

Villagers fighting controversial proposals to revamp a much-loved bridge are urging the council behind the project to work with them to find a solution that suits both parties.

Essex County Council have drawn up plans to strengthen and widen Finchingfield Bridge, but has currently refused requests to build a temporary bridge during the work.

This would mean anyone wanting to visit or pass through the village from the Haverhill area - a popular route when travelling towards Stansted Airport - would face a 15-mile detour from Steeple Bumpstead to Hempstead, for up to four months.

A number of businesses and residents strongly oppose the work, and have formed the Finchingfield Bridge Preservation Society (FBPS), arguing it would destroy the picturesque bridge and have a negative impact on the village.

Almost 3,000 people have already signed a petition attempting to halt the plan.

“The council’s proposal is a non-starter,” said Barry Gilbey, from FBPS.

“The ideal scenario is for the current bridge to be revamped as it is and to have a temporary bridge while that is going on.”

James Cleverly, MP for the area, met with the society and businesses in the village recently and has promised to approach the county council and encourage the authority to hear villagers concerns.

“The council has come up with three proposals and we are no further forward,” said Mr Gilbey.

“Every time they do this there are more questions than answers. We need to come to a compromise.”

As part of the council’s redesign, the bridge could be made 12ft wider and encroach on the village green and pond.

Members of FBPS say the plan, which went on display at the village hall in February, would increase traffic, vehicle speed and the number of HGV’s in the village.

A council survey will come to an end next Thursday and the feedback from this will shape the way forward.

“The council has recognised it can’t do the work during the summer because of the harvest and it is a busy time for businesses,” said Mr Gilbey.

“It is looking like work, which will need planning permission, will not start until at least October and we hope we can come to some agreement.”