A VICTORIAN village bridge undergoing urgent repairs will reopen temporarily next month – and restore a vital supply line to the local economy.
The 133-year-old Wark Bridge in the North Tyne Valley will be back in use for traffic by October 21 after a delay in the first phase of a four-stage, £2.1m repair programme.
And that will end the long diversion that has hit the tourist trade and local businesses.
A phased work schedule lasting until 2017 and spanning five financial years began in January.
But hopes of reopening the bridge after the first phase of work in July were stalled when a severe crack in a stone support was discovered.
However, work has progressed well and a liaison group meeting on Tuesday confirmed the October 21 reopening date.
“There is an outside chance it could reopen shortly before then,” said ward councillor Edward Heslop. “But we are on target for the reopening by October 21.
“They are laying the Tarmac today and the reopening will be welcome because it has certainly had an effect – we have had problems with tourism this year.
“People wanting to get to Battlesteads, or to Chipchase Nursery, for example, have faced problems – although the weather this summer may have put them off too.
“Something like this is always going to affect some people, sadly, and that’s what we’ve got to weigh up with any future closure.”
Without the bridge, vehicles face a 10-mile detour to get to the other side, but the bridge is expected to stay open to traffic until the next phase of work in 2013.
A meeting to decide details of the next repair phase is to be held at Northumberland County Council HQ in Morpeth in October.
A number of options will be on the table, and Coun Heslop said: “We are looking to see if it can be cut down to just two more phases.
“We have also got to look at timing as regards funding, and when it will fit in.
“We need to learn from how people have been affected by the closure from February to October, and then decide exactly when the next phase will take place.”