Funding package agreed that will finally see closed bridge in Northamptonshire village re-open

The bridge has been closed since June last year
The bridge has been closed since June last year

A village bridge that has been closed for a year is set to re-open by the end of 2019 after a funding package for repairs was finally agreed.

The Hellidon Road bridge, in Charwelton, has been closed since June 2018 after it was discovered it had weakened and was ‘unsafe’.

The closure, and subsequent delay in carrying out repair works, has frustrated residents and business owners, but it seems like the final hurdle may now have been cleared.

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.

The £200,000 funding gap was eventually plugged by Daventry District Council, even though it is not responsible for the bridge.

Since then, however, £65,000 in additional costs were discovered for a list of upgrades including a cover for a crash barrier, resurfacing, repair of chevrons and embankment work.

The district council had been due to discuss a motion from Councillor Jo Gilford at its latest meeting (May 15) that called on Northamptonshire County Council to meet the shortfall.

However, it was revealed at the meeting that the costs had since been scaled back, so only an additional £20,000 was needed – and that the county council would foot the bill.

Speaking at the meeting, Councillor Gilford said: “I have been concerned about the impact of the prolonged closure of the Hellidon Road bridge on the local people and businesses nearby.

“Happily, after a meeting with the county council, a sensible outcome has now been reached.”

Responding to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Daventry District Council’s executive director for business, Simon Bowers, said: “The contractor initially estimated that an additional £65,000 may be needed to complete work to the crash barrier. However as the work required has been refined and with helpful co-operation from NCC, this estimate has been much reduced, to around £20,000.

“It is hoped that the work can be done within the total budget set aside by the owner and the district council, but if this is not possible NCC has agreed to provide up to £20,000 to enable the works to be completed and the road re-opened to the public.

“All three organisations are trying to achieve that outcome and it is hoped that the work will start at the end of July and be completed in 16 weeks.”

County council cabinet member for highways Councillor Ian Morris said that stumping up the cash made financial sense for his authority.

He said: “There’s been a bit of an impasse because it’s a privately owned bridge, Daventry oversee the planning and we’re responsible for the road surface.

“But it was costing us £40-45k to keep the bridge closed for a year, so it would cost more than putting in the £20k.

“I think it’s a good example of us working together.”