“IDIOTS” who drive across a popular ford when the river is in full spate have been blamed for its winter closure.
But a call for Stanhope Ford in Weardale, County Durham, to be closed to traffic all the year round was defeated at a meeting of highway chiefs yesterday.
Durham County Council’s Highways Committee voted to install lockable gates to prevent vehicles from getting on to the ford between October 1 and March 31. The gates will be installed within the next two weeks after members were told firefighters had to be called to the ford, which spans the River Wear, 27 times in the past six years.
Eighty per cent of the call-outs had been between October and March. Michael Dunn, Fire Safety Officer for County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Brigade, said the risk of carrying out rescues to both fire crews and people who get stuck on the ford were “extremely high”.
He was replying to an objection to the closure from Harry Irwin, former Stanhope town clerk and a retired retained firefighter, who said the gates were being installed “because firemen don’t want to get their feet wet”.
County Councillor John Shuttleworth, who represents rural Weardale, said local people reluctantly accepted that a winter closure was necessary “because you cannot legislate for idiots who attempt to cross the river when it is in full spate”. Coun Dennis Southwell unsuccessfully called for the ford to be closed to traffic for 12 months of the year.