Drivers face 28-mile diversion via Braintree or Haverhill when Finchingfield bridge is closed for six-month roadworks project
- Credit: Archant
Residents say an Essex village could be cut in half and lives put at risk when a historic bridge is repaired if no temporary alternative is provided.
The bridge carrying the main road through Finchingfield, used by the Tour de France last year, is likely to be out of action for up to six months next spring when it is repaired by Essex County Council contractors.
If no temporary alternative is installed then drivers face a 28-mile detour via Braintree or Haverhill, which residents say will cut the village in half, destroy local businesses and make it difficult for families to get to school or the doctors.
Concerns have also been raised about access to neighbouring villages including Cornish Hall End, Weathersfield, Great Bardford and Great Sailing.
A plea on a community Facebook page for the temporary bridge option gained 7,000 likes in 48 hours.
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The bridge is in one of the most photographed and picturesque villages in England.
James Cleverly, Conservative MP for the village, has met residents and said he supports calls for a temporary bridge saying the diversion would be “catastrophic”.
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Alex Robinson from Finchingfield Post Office and Stores in Bardfield Road, which has more than 1,000 customers a week, said: “What we have heard is that Essex County Council is leaning towards the diversion. This would be disastrous for the life of our village.
“As a community we will be effectively cut into two and all through traffic will simply stop.
“Closure of the bridge would mean over half our customers, including all people from Cornish Hall End, and all our passing trade, would simply cease.
“Even our deliveries would potentially be suspended or incur huge surcharges. Rural businesses are marginal at best, and as a business, we simply could not survive this for months on end.
“When the road outside our post office was resurfaced earlier this year, we saw a 70 per cent drop in custom. That was only for a week.”
Jane Welsh, also from the post office, added: “Finchingfield has survived through the centuries because it is where the river is crossed. Remove that crossing and the heart of the village will be destroyed.”
Residents Clive and Andrea Bush, from Church Hill, said: “If an emergency vehicle has to make this diversion, the consequences could be catastrophic and possibly life-threatening.”
Fears have also been raised that motorists will try to use local single-track roads instead of any official diversion, which would cause chaos and crashes.
Mr Cleverly said he would write to County Hall and ask the commanding officer of Carver Barracks in Saffron Walden to see if engineers could build a temporary bridge as part of a training mission.
An Essex Highways spokesman said: “We are currently exploring options for the bridge and will be in a position to give more information within the coming days.”