Pelsall councillors have sought to reassure villagers about plans to consult on de-registering common land so that an application to build a new bridge can go ahead.
Councillors Marco Longhi, Garry Perry and Oliver Bennett said they were working with Walsall Council Transportation and Engineer officers to mitigate issues relating to the poorly maintained York’s Bridge and a planned new bridge, which would be built alongside it, on Norton Road.
A Cabinet meeting this Wednesday (January 23) will ask councillors to approve a local consultation programme over the de-registering of 0.22ha of common land. In an land exchange deal, Moat Farm Pool, on the corner of Lichfield Road and Norton Road, could then be transferred to common land status.
Depending on the outcome of the consultation, which could begin as early as next month if given the go-ahead, the authority could then apply to the Planning Inspectorate for permission to build the new bridge.
In a joint statement, the councillors said they recognised the strength of feeling of villagers who want to save the existing bridge and have successfully negotiated with planners to save the historic feature.
However, they said because there was a danger any bridge building programme could be taken out of council hands by the Department of Transport, it was important that Pelsall residents stayed in control of any decisions relating to the proposed construction.
“The local authority has a duty to ensure road safety. If it does nothing, the Department of Transport can take over and decisions would then be taken out of our hands,” they say.
“York’s Bridge is unsafe and deteriorating, but engineers have confirmed that it is not feasible to simply ‘renew’ it and bring it into current regulation/standards.
“We very much wanted to make the ‘old’ bridge work and actually insisted on an independent assessment of the bridge. Unfortunately, this too revealed that it has deteriorated to such an extent that the work required is too extensive for a simple makeover, if it was as simple as this then the work would have already been carried out.”
“Undoubtedly this is one issue where debate will be strong and we have already received a number of questions from local residents, which we have addressed with officers, particularly relating to traffic concerns, which we seek to resolve by means of restriction.
“In the coming weeks we will focus our energies in ensuring that the people ultimately affected, those who live closest to the bridge, have any concerns answered and their views listened to.
“We know that this will not be easy, but other than close the bridge altogether doing nothing is not an option.”
The councillors said as well as succeeding in saving York’s Bridge they have further negotiated the resurfacing of Wolverhampton Road and Norton Road from the Fingerpost to the bridge and the introduction of weight restrictions from Norton Road into the village if the new bridge is finally given the go-ahead.