£1m bridge repairs set to start at last

The 223 year old Kingsweston footbridge will finally be
re-opened next year – nine years after it was hit by a lorry and closed for safety reasons.

The iron bridge over Kingsweston Lane should be open again by the end of 2024  after Bristol City Council confirmed it would  foot a £1million repair bill.

Campaigners say they are delighted – but there is some criticism from disability groups that the remodelled bridge won’t include wheelchair access.

Janet Poole, who lives nearby and has been a leading campaigner to get the bridge fixed, told the Voice it had taken years of protests to the council.

The Grade II listed bridge, which links Blaise Castle Estate to Kingsweston Fields, was struck by a lorry in 2015. 

But Janet says no one got details of the vehicle, so BCC could not claim on the driver’s insurance. Scaffolding was erected to support the bridge – but as this lowered its height, it was struck by vehicles two more times, causing further damage.

She said: “I am pleased it is at last being repaired and will be able to re-open.

“I have spent so much time trying to get Bristol City Council moving on this.  I told them if it wasn’t approved I would camp out on College Green in protest!

“Now we have it agreed in the next 24 months work schedule – and I have been told some of the parts are already being made, and it should be open next year.”

“We have already started making bunting to put on it when it opens and we plan to hold an opening ceremony.”

Kingsweston Lane will be closed to all traffic while the bridge is removed and some iron parts are reworked.

The bridge will be raised by one metre, to prevent future incidents,  with stone steps added at either side.

But plans for ramps for wheelchair users and parents with prams and pushchairs were rejected as unsuitable by Historic England, because they would have to be 30 metres long.

David Redgewell, from Bristol Disability Equalities Forum, told last month’s  BCC cabinet meeting that this went against accessibility guidance from the Department for Transport.

He said: “We haven’t even been offered an alternative crossing across the road, so there isn’t an alternative route being provided for mobility impairments.

“If we can’t use the bridge, we should at least be able to cross the road safely but that has not been offered either.” 

Mayor Marvin Rees said the debate about ramps had held up repairs. 

“The choice we ended up facing was to continue in that hold-up with no bridge or to compromise and get a bridge,” he said. “The compromise does mean that there is no ramp, but it was the only way we could get this project completed.”

In a statement to the meeting, Tory councillors John Geater and James Scott (Avonmouth & Lawrence Weston) said they were relieved the long-delayed project had overcome its final hurdle.

Money for the repairs was agreed by the Mayor as part of an agreement for Conservative support for his 2022-23 budget. Bristol North West Labour MP Darren Jones had joined calls for the bridge to be mended.