Further delays hit repairs to North Bridge in Oundle
Despite £1.3m funds being in the bank, the repair work to the Grade Two listed North Bridge in Oundle has been further delayed because of planning issues to do with its listed building status.
The bridge was shut to heavy goods vehicles in May last year because of concerns about a number of its arches.
At the time, the county authority said it did not have the cash to make the repairs and so a three-tonne weight limit was put on the bridge and lorries were instead routed through the narrow West Street of the historic market town.
Lorries had previously been banned from going through the town.
The Government gave the funds to the county council to make the repairs to the at the start of this year but now the work has hit a planning snag.
East Northamptonshire Council is the planning authority dealing with an application to repair the bridge.
Northamptonshire county councillor Julie Brookfield (Lab - Corby West) says that enough is enough and wants some fast action.
She said: “All summer residents have faced the inconvenience of negotiating the bollards on the width-restricted bridge and increased heavy traffic, which has been diverted through the once-protected town centre.
"The bus routes have been changed and businesses badly affected by reduced access for their vehicles.
"Worse still, there is a danger posed by HGVs to pedestrians walking on the narrow pavements and the risk of damage to the beautiful Grade One listed buildings on West Street and New Street.
“The promised start date of September for the repairs, which would take over 100 days to complete, has been put back.
"It is a Grade Two listed monument but all the more reason for the works not to be held up.
"East Northamptonshire Council is the planning authority and I urge them and Historic England to reach a decision and not cause further delay.
“ My fear is it will drag on as it did with South Bridge, which had the same weight restriction imposed for years.”
A spokesman for East Northamptonshire Council, said: “East Northamptonshire Council is currently considering an application for listed building consent for repair works to North Bridge, Oundle, which is a Grade Two listed structure and contains built fabric from 1571.
"The council is working closely with Historic England which have provided expert engineering advice and has raised queries and made recommendations on the application (which was submitted on behalf of Northamptonshire County Council, as Local Highways Authority).
“All organisations are working hard to ensure that the special character of the listed building is not damaged while essential repair works are carried out and appreciate the disruption that the closure is causing.
"Discussions are ongoing to enable the application be determined as soon as possible.”
A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council, which contracts Kier to carry out its highways maintenance, said: “Our team are ready to start work on this historic monument.
"We are waiting for the Listed Building Consent and the matter is out of our hands until we secure this consent.
"East Northamptonshire Planning Authority is the decision makers for this.
"They have sent all the information we provided to Historic England for consultation and will make their decision based upon Historic England’s comments.
“We hope to have a reply from East Northamptonshire planning authority by September 13.
“If their decision goes against us, we will have to modify our approach and re-apply for consent. "Unfortunately, this does mean there will be further delays.
“We understand the frustration with this as we realise the value of the bridge to the local community as an access point into Oundle.
"As Northamptonshire Highways, we have done all we can to secure a start date and are pushing for October.”