Call for action after damage to Rothbury bridges

A councillor is calling for action to deal with a number of bridges on routes into Rothbury and the Coquet Valley that have been repeatedly damaged.

By Ben O'Connell
Tuesday, 18th February 2020, 5:11 pm
Updated Monday, 24th February 2020, 1:16 pm
The damaged caused to the Thrum Mill Bridge following an incident last month.
The damaged caused to the Thrum Mill Bridge following an incident last month.

But the local authority has warned that major works to these historic structures are expensive and disruptive, in a county which has hundreds of bridges.

Back in late 2018, Coun Steven Bridgett, ward member for Rothbury, contacted the council about five bridges on the B6344 and B6341, including the Blackburn, Thrum Mill and Debdon Lake Bridges, all of which have been hit by vehicles on multiple occasions and had to be repaired.

He has now aired his concerns once more, following another incident last month which saw a motorist completely demolish a large section of the parapet at the Thrum Mill Bridge.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The damaged caused to the Thrum Mill Bridge following an incident last month.

He has urged ‘serious consideration’ be given to dealing with these bottlenecks to avoid more people being injured – or worse.

Coun Bridgett added: “How long do you have to keep pouring money into fixing the damage before you attempt to actually tackle the problem itself and how long are residents and the local economy going to have to keep dealing with road closures while these bridges are fixed?

“I really would like to see a proposed plan of action put in place for how we can look at addressing the issues rather than just kicking the can down the road until the same thing happens again.”

As a positive example, he highlighted the work carried out on the Dunkirk Bridge, which sits between the Thrum Mill and Blackburn Bridges, a partnership approach which saw the structure strengthened and widened.

However, Coun Glen Sanderson, the council’s cabinet member for local services, said: “We have around 2,000 bridges and culverts across the county, many of which are historic or listed, and so to alter them would be very difficult and costly.

“I have offered to discuss this with Coun Bridgett and to look at possible options.

“Where there are incidents or accidents, we do undertake reviews to consider what practical improvements can be made.”

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, the authority’s director of local services, Paul Jones, explained that work to improve signage and visibility had taken place in the past, but any efforts to widen historic bridges would lead to ‘prohibitive costs’ and disruptions.

He estimated a scheme like that would cost a few million pounds when the council has £18million a year in total to spend on the whole of the county’s road network.

Mr Jones added that there are more pressing issues in terms of bridges, giving an example of an approach to the Department for Transport for funding to repair steel bridges. If these six or seven structures were out of action, it would result in more than 130 miles of diversions.

He also confirmed that the council does seek to claim through insurance following incidents in which motorists damage bridges or other structures.

Northumberland County Council owns and is responsible for about 1,177 highway bridges, 843 footbridges, 745 culverts and 131 fords.