Bridge repairs approved– but work won’t start yet

Work to repair Kingsweston Iron Bridge won’t start until next year – nearly a decade after it closed.

The 19th-century footbridge was shut by Bristol City Council in 2015, leaving walkers cut off from Kings Weston Estate and Blaise Castle Estate in north west Bristol, after a lorry crashed into it. Then in 2018, a second lorry also hit the bridge, causing even more damage.

Once fixed, the bridge will be installed one metre higher than it used to be, to reduce the chance of it being hit again. New steps will need to be added, which means it won’t be wheelchair accessible.

Local resident Janet Poole told the council’s development control A committee, in December: “People in Bristol are tired of waiting for this much loved bridge to be repaired and reopened. We understand that the plans aren’t perfect, it’s not going to suit everyone and isn’t going to be accessible for everyone. But at this stage of the game we just want the bridge repaired.

“We are really tired, we are fed up, we feel neglected, we feel forgotten and we just do not know what else to do. We have protested, we have been on the news, we have been on the radio, we have done everything we can. It took three years to build the Titanic, two years to build the Mall at Cribbs Causeway — seven years and we’ve done nothing.”

Even though planning permission has now been granted for the works, construction isn’t due to start until 2024, according to the mayor, nine years since it was first closed. Responding to a question in a member forum on December 13, Marvin Rees said the council had other priorities.

Mr Rees said: “While we recognise it’s a passion project for some local people, it is not a key infrastructure project for Bristol and I would hope councillors would be honest about prioritising in a time of financial pressures. It is expected [work] will start in the financial year 2023–24 as resources allow, with construction works commencing in 2024.”

Planning officers said the large size of a ramp needed to make the listed bridge wheelchair accessible would harm the historic heritage of the structure, which was important for conservation.

Writing to the development control committee, David Redgewell, a local transport campaigner, said: “This scheme discriminates against disabled people, and mothers and fathers with buggies. The alternative is to cross a very busy Kings Weston Road. We would ask the city council to relook at the design of the bridge.”

But defending the current plans, Councillor Don Alexander, cabinet member for transport, said: “Any negative impact on this much-loved asset will be far outweighed by the fact that it will be permanently raised and safe from any further bridge strikes.’ 

By Alex Seabrook, Local Democracy Reporting Service