Northwich and Rural North

Talking West Cheshire

Funding package agreed to restore Sutton Weaver Swing Bridge

27 June 2012

Council leaders are ready to step in to save Frodsham and the surrounding road network from suffering a slow and painful death by traffic.

Members of the Executive have recommended spending £3.5m over two years to help with the refurbishment of British Waterways’ 90-year-old Sutton Weaver Swing Bridge.

The cash will meet the majority of the estimated £4.5m needed for major refurbishment and re-strengthening required to enable the ageing bridge to cope in the future with its current 40 tonne vehicular weight restriction.

“It has been a hard decision to make – particularly when money is so very tight – but the alternative is just not worth contemplating,” said Councillor Lynn Riley, Executive Member for Community and Environment.

The bridge carries 20,000 vehicles a day on the A56 over the River Weaver and is the only suitable road crossing across the river for miles in each direction.

And heavy lorries - apart from high-sided vehicles - normally diverted through Frodsham when the M56 westbound is blocked, would have to travel miles out of their way with the only alternative routes via Northwich or the Mersey Tunnels.

“British Waterways can contribute a proportion of the money and the Government funding criteria has changed .We must act before the bridge deteriorates to the stage where a weight limit has to be imposed and heavy lorries have no escape route if the motorway is blocked,” said Councillor Riley.

“Lorries above 18 tonnes wanting to access Frodsham would have to follow a lengthy diversion route to reach the town with resultant delays and impact on local businesses.”

Work to replace the bridge deck, repairs to the parapets and repainting of the bridge’s shabby steelwork structure will begin in spring next year.

The bridge will not close to pedestrians or vehicles during the 10-month operation but road traffic will be reduced to single lane operation controlled by traffic lights.

Said Councillor Riley: “We will make every effort to keep disruption to a minimum but it is inevitable that a major operation of this complexity will lead to some delays.”

Local Councillor Andrew Dawson said: “The Council have done the honourable thing and stepped up to the plate for the good of the local community.

“I’m absolutely delighted that we have got to grips with this problem at last - but not so delighted that the taxpayer will have to foot the lion’s share of the bill.”

Added Councillor Dawson would like to see local road remodelling to help traffic flow when work is underway on the bridge.

“Not only will the structure problem of this vital bridge be sorted but Frodsham will no longer have to put up with its eyesore gateway,” he said.

The Council is hoping that the Sutton Weaver Swing Bridge project can be timed to avoid the height of the work on the Mersey Gateway project which will have a major effect on traffic in the area.

Kingsley Councillor Ralph Oultram said: “The Weaver Bridge is strategically vital to the traffic network in this area which is exactly why the Council has agreed to take much of the responsibility for the refurbishment of a bridge which it does not own.

“Even so, we must do everything we can to minimise the inconvenience that will result from both these major projects.”

Local MP Graham Evans, said: “The future of the Sutton Weaver swing bridge has been a real concern for me and for local residents. I have made the views of my constituents clear to both the Council and to British Waterways and I am pleased that funding has now been secured.”

Wendy Capelle, waterway manager, British Waterways added: “The two organisations have a joint responsibility for the bridge and we have been working with the Council for a number of years on funding options for its refurbishment.

“I’m really pleased that the Council has agreed to provide the shortfall in funding. Plans are now underway to commence work next spring to restore the bridge to its former glory.

“British Waterways will be consulting with our customers and stakeholders who use the River Weaver about the restrictions which we will try to minimise as much as possible whilst the works are taking place.”