TOWNSFOLK in Northumberland have secured victory in a row over work to a historic bridge after heritage bosses performed a U-turn.
People living at Rothbury will see its road bridge over the River Coquet restored largely in line with their wishes, after English Heritage withdrew its objections and gave approval for the work.
Last night, people at Rothbury described the news as a victory for the community.
Northumberland County Council came up with plans to strengthen and improve the appearance of the bridge, which dates to the 15th century and is the oldest structure in Rothbury.
The council plans sought to restore the bridge as close to how it looked pre 1909, replacing the current metal railings with stone, restoring the parapets and putting cutwaters back on the structure. The project is expected to cost £3m, with the council having allocated £975,000 last year and given a further £1.6m this year.
An exhibition was held in the town last year and residents and Rothbury Parish Council supported the plans.
The final decision on the scheme was to be made by a Government minister, based on a recommendation from English Heritage because of the bridge’s scheduled monument status.
English Heritage raised concerns over the design of parapets proposed and suggested the authority look at work on other historic structures.
The organisation invited the council to make a new application “which takes on board the wishes of the local community”.
But villagers were angry over English Heritage’s stance, with the parish council criticising the organisation and Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith raising their concerns with the minister.
Now the county council has submitted a revised application, and English Heritage has given its backing.
Peter Brewis, the county’s project manager for the bridge work, said: “English Heritage has accepted the community wishes for the appearance of the bridge and has given approval to the amendments wanted by the community.
“The council will now be working to implement these amendments.”
Last night, Rothbury councillor Stephen Bridgett said: “I am pleased English Heritage has decided to listen to the wishes of the community because at the end of the day it is the community that has to live with this bridge for the next 150/200 years and what it looks like.
“I think it has been a victory for the county council and for the community of Rothbury.”
Coun Jeff Reynalds, chairman of the parish council, added: “We think that it is very good of them to re-think it.
“We did think English Heritage were dictating what was happening, we think they have listened and we are as happy as we are going to get.”
Carol Pyrah, English Heritage planning director for the North East said: “We were very pleased to meet with local parish council members and explore their concerns and after this, the County Council has submitted an amended scheme that was given permission to go ahead.
“Work has started on site now and we look forward to seeing Rothbury Bridge repaired.”
The bridge is currently shut while work takes place.
A bailey bridge is in place to take traffic while the structure is closed.