Footbridge's safety to be inspected before decision made on repair date

The bailey bridge has been closed since the beginning of October Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The Bailey bridge connecting Southwold and Walberswick is in need of repairs - Credit: Archant

Further inspections of the footbridge connecting Southwold and Walberswick are to be carried out before a decision is made on when to close the structure for repairs.

The Bailey bridge over the River Blyth is set to be refurbished later this year after a report uncovered "severe corrosion" in its support beams.

The bridge was temporarily closed on safety grounds in 2018, but has since reopened and is frequently used by the community and tourists to the Suffolk coast.

Any closure would see the path closed to all users for several weeks while repair works are carried out.

However, calls have been made for the revamp to be either brought forward or delayed so that the scheme does not affect the summer months - with Southwold and Walberswick hoping for a staycation boost after the coronavirus lockdown.

Town and district councillor David Beavan previously said it would be a "kick in the teeth" if the bridge closed in the summer.

David Beavan on the pier in Southwold. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

David Beavan called for the bridge to be kept open over the summer - Credit: Archant

Andrew Reid, Suffolk County Council's cabinet member for highways, said an independent inspection will determine whether the repairs can be delayed or not.

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He said: "Following meeting with key representatives from Southwold and Walberswick to discuss the imminent refurbishment required of the Bailey bridge, the county council has agreed to commission a further independent inspection of the critical elements of the bridge to ascertain whether it’s safe for the bridge to remain open and whether refurbishment can be delayed until after the summer peak.

Andrew Reid, Suffolk County Council's cabinet member for highways

Andrew Reid, Suffolk County Council's cabinet member for highways - Credit: Charlotte Bond

"The county council has been planning its refurbishment of the bridge to ensure it can safely remain open for many years to come. However, in order to effect repairs, the bridge will need to be closed.

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"We fully recognise the impact a closure of such a well-used structure could have on locals, visitors and those operating businesses – this and the safety of those using the bridge are our top priorities.

"Whilst we commission the follow-up inspection and report it is important that we continue our preliminary works to gain consent and plan the refurbishment to take place as soon as possible, whilst also exploring potential mitigation measures to support the local communities."

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