Residents' fury over bridge closure

By Ted JeoryTHE closure of an 80-year-old bridge between two villages could leave the elderly cut off from vital health facilities, it has been claimed.

By Ted Jeory

THE closure of an 80-year-old bridge between two villages could leave the elderly cut off from vital health facilities, it has been claimed.

Essex County Council has warned major repairs were needed to a two-lane bridge, which spans the Roman River between Fingringhoe and Rowhedge.

The crumbling concrete structure is the only direct access point between the two villages, but it is due to close from about May for six months for the repair work to take place.

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That could mean lengthy detours for motorists, while it is not yet known whether any replacement bus services would continue to link the villages.

Elderly residents in Fingringhoe are also worried about how they would get to the GP surgery and pharmacy in Rowhedge when the bridge is closed.

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Denis Horrigan, clerk to Fingringhoe Parish Council, which is set to discuss the issue at its meeting tomorrow night, said: "People have been up in arms about what's been happening.

"The decision to close was presented as a fait accompli and there hasn't been any proper consultation about diversion route. We have asked whether a temporary bridge could be built because there's a lot of concern about getting to the surgery and also emergency access.

"It seems the repairs are needed because it has suffered as a rat-run into the Hythe area of Colchester, but no-one has yet to come and promise us that there will be proper bus routes for the six-month period.

"Essex Wildlife Trust has also written to the county bridge engineer about the lack of communication. It says it considers the management of the consultation quite unprofessional."

Janet Hulse, who manages the trust's Fingringhoe Visitor Centre, added: "It was rude of the council not to consult us.

"They're looking at closing it in May, which is slap bang in the middle of our high season for nightingales and there's no doubt the closure will affect people coming in – we're a bit worried about it."

But Chris Manning-Press, the county councillor for the area, said there had been full consultation and added that was ongoing.

"A temporary bridge for motor vehicles will cost £750,000 and that's not on, so instead we'll ensure pedestrians, bikes and horses can get over somewhere," he said.

"But it's now up to the parish council to work with the Rowhedge surgery to get them to come to Fingringhoe for say three days a week or something similar."

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