Village's fight to save 120-year-old bridge hits 5,000 signatures

Boxted Bridge, in the centre of Dedham Vale, is at risk of being replaced by Essex Highways.

Boxted Bridge, in the centre of Dedham Vale, is at risk of being replaced by Essex Highways. - Credit: Lucinda de Jasay

Momentum is building in Boxted to try and save a historic bridge which has stood for more than 120 years — with more than 5,000 people backing a petition to stop it being replaced. 

Residents have deemed the replacement of Boxted Bridge, built in 1897, as a "travesty", after Essex Highways carried out investigation work to consider long-term options for the management of the crossing point. 

The highways authority said “action must be taken” at the bridge following years of corrosion and damage to its foundation.

They plan to replace it entirely with a wider structure, and along with road realignment, they say this will help safely accommodate emergency service and waste vehicles, but not articulated HGVs due to the bridge’s location in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The 'Save Our Bridge' petition was launched by Lucinda de Jasay, whose family have lived at Boxted Mill since the 70s and has now received more than 5,000 signatures of support. 

Boxted Bridge pictured at Boxted Mill in an old postcard. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Boxted Bridge pictured at Boxted Mill in an old postcard. - Credit: CONTRIBUTED

She said the same themes are appearing in petitioner's comments, who have mentioned conserving our heritage, the history, charm and beauty of the bridge, the "disregard" for local opinion and unwanted HGVs on rural roads.

Boxted Parish Council, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, The Dedham Vale Society and the Save Our Bridge campaign have recently requested an impartial independent review of the option to repair and strengthen the bridge.

Mrs de Jasay said Essex Highways have claimed this is unviable and the cost "prohibitive".

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One petitioner said this goes further than just saving the bridge, adding it is about "saving the AONB and the surrounding countryside environment that so many of us now need".

They said: "This kind of wanton destruction must be stopped."

Boxted Bridge, pictured in 2016, is at risk of being replaced by Essex Highways. Picture: LUCINDA DE JASAY

Boxted Bridge, pictured in 2016, is at risk of being replaced by Essex Highways. - Credit: LUCINDA DE JASAY

Mrs de Jasay said the petition and the comments show just how much people care, and how important it is to them for Essex County Council to save the bridge.

A spokesman for Essex Highways said: "Options for this situation have been carefully considered, the current bridge is in a condition where replacement is necessary and is assessed so far as the most viable solution.

“People signing the petition may not be aware that the proposed replacement bridge will be visually extremely similar.

“The original construction of Boxted Bridge does not lend itself well to the extent of repairs required, without, in fact, replacing the majority of the structure.

“The proposed new bridge will be built to current standards, providing the community with a long-term solution without compromising safety or the aesthetics of the local AONB."

Essex Highways said it is currently consulting with independent experts in strengthening and rebuilding steel bridges to provide external proposals for refurbishment, including a technical assessment of the feasibility of such repairs and their likely cost, for completeness.  

The spokesman added: "We trust this will also provide the confidence that some residents are seeking that Essex Highways is committed to proposing the best long-term solution for the crossing point and for the rural community it serves.”

A picture of the existing bridge and the artist’s impression of the new one is available to view here.

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