Daventry District Council pays £200k towards bridge repairs

Daventry District Council agreed to fund the bridge repairs
Daventry District Council agreed to fund the bridge repairs

A district council will pay £200,000 towards the strengthening of a dangerous bridge, even though it’s not responsible for its upkeep.

The Hellidon Road Bridge in Charwelton has been closed since June after it was discovered the bridge had weakened and was ‘unsafe’.

But months later, and with no organisation taking responsibility for the repair work, Daventry District Council has stepped in with a £200,000 investment to strengthen the bridge so that it can carry up to 44 tonnes.

Cllr David James told the chamber on Thursday evening: “This has caused considerable inconvenience to residents, visitors to the area and to businesses.

“We could of course do nothing, but there’s a danger that it could collapse if people decided to ignore warnings and go over it. So there’s a danger as well as an inconvenience.”

The bridge, which runs over the former railway line and was built in the 1890s, is technically under the ownership of Aero Research Partners (ARP).

ARP was originally going to pay £150,000 for strengthening the bridge, with the Historic Railways Estate (HRE) also pledging to contribute £200,000. However, the Department for Transport stepped in to stop HRE funding the project, leaving the £200,000 gap which the council is now plugging.

Conservative councillor Richard Auger added: “Nobody is taking responsibility. So I’m proud of this district council for picking this up to get this done for our residents. This is why I came into politics.”

But the funding was opposed by Labour members, with Cllr Stephen Dabbs saying: “I absolutely disagree with all that. The Government effectively pulls out, then our request to them for help falls on deaf ears.

“It would have been nice to think you could influence your friends in high places, but you haven’t.

“It’s a wrong and inappropriate use of Daventry District Council funds. It is not our responsibility. We are not a business, a venture capitalist or indeed the Dragons' Den. It can’t fundraise for everything it wants willy nilly.”

Councillors ultimately voted the funding through, and it is hoped that strengthening work can start soon, with an early estimate that the project could be finished by the New Year.