New £2.4million bridge opens

By Patrick LowmanAFTER 18 months of disruption a spectacular new £2.4m bridge providing a vital link between Suffolk and Essex over the River Stour has finally opened.

By Patrick Lowman

AFTER 18 months of disruption a spectacular new £2.4m bridge providing a vital link between Suffolk and Essex over the River Stour has finally opened.

Local dignitaries, residents and special guests enjoyed an array of events to mark the official opening of Suffolk County Council's new Ballingdon Bridge in Sudbury, yesterday.

The new 34-metre structure – engineered by Ove Arup, the brains behind London's Millennium Bridge – has been built to replace the previous ageing bridge built in 1911.

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Over the past 18-months Sudbury has faced mounting disruption whilst the bridge, which provides a link between Suffolk and Essex along the A131. A number of diversions and a temporary one-way system were introduced while the work was being carried out.

But the recent troubles were put aside for yesterday's colourful activities to celebrate the bridge's grand opening.

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Five-year-old Megan Risley, 6, of Sudbury, was one of the first to cross the new bridge, and was joined by town mayor John Sayers, local historian Barry Wall and Suffolk County Council executive committee member Julian Swainson, to cut the ceremonial ribbons.

The celebrations took a somewhat unusual turn when Mr Sayers presented residents with a 'competent and friendly dish of fish', a tradition which started following a dispute over fishing rights on the river in 1586.

Mr Sayers, who turned up to the ceremony in an 1800s steam driven car, said: “I am very honoured to be here to help open the bridge and it was nice to see the town clerk and the mace bearers here to ensure Sudbury was well represented. I am really warming to the new bridge and it has been a real festive occasion. It is great news for the town that the bridge has been completed and we must now push on for the much needed bypass.”

The first bridge over the river emerged in the 13th century, and was followed by a number of stone and brick structures. A timber structure was erected across the river in the early 19th century, which lasted until 1911.

Yesterday, pupils from St Gregory's Primary School dressed up in costumes from the Saxon and Tudor periods up to the modern day to reflect the bridge through the ages. They also presented Mr Swainson with a time capsule to be buried at the site.

The Rev Andrew Platt, from nearby All Saints Church, was escorted by a flotilla of boats as he performed a traditional bridge blessing ceremony from a River Stour Trust launch. Finally balloons were released by the Sudbury Rotary Club.

Mr Swainson said: “I am thrilled to see the new Ballingdon Bridge open. The design of the bridge has already attracted national recognition and I hope it will become a new and prestigious local landmark for years to come.”

The new bridge was built following a competition by The Royal Institute of British Architects to find a suitable design.

Over 40 entrants were received from across the world and local people were invited to choose their favourite design for the new bridge from a shortlist of five. The winning 34-metre structure was designed by Brookes Stacey Randall and engineered by Ove Arup.

It is designed to last for 120 years and built in a way that requires little maintenance, using a unique combination of materials. It has stainless steel parapet posts and wire, aluminium bollards with low-level lighting. Oak timber footpaths line the bridge and a decking area is situated in the car park of the former Boathouse pub. The concrete beams incorporate lighting units, which light the bridge from below and illuminate part of the river at night.

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