Preston City Council has cited a lack of funding as the leading obstacle for Old Tram Bridge.Advertisement
Former city councillor Daniel Dewhurst, who was involved in the creation of the Northern Research Group of MPs, launched a petition last month to highlight public support for the bridge. It gained over 1,200 signatures in a matter of days.
The bridge over the River Ribble was closed in 2019 for safety reasons.
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But Mr Dewhurst has since helped spearhead the restoration scheme under the Friends of the Old Tramroad Bridge group and raised the issue with Lancashire County Council.
Restoration campaign leader Mr Dewhurst has appealed to the council to utilise the Preston Levelling Up Fund to repair the bridge, which will cost an estimated £7m to replace.
In a letter to Mr Dewhurst, Preston MP Sir Mark Hendrick said: “I am aware that the matter is very close to the heart of Prestonians, and many people are keen to see the re-opening of the structure.
“I have recently raised the matter with Preston City Council and have spoken about the need to provide funding for the Old Tram Bridge.”
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A spokesperson from Preston City Council said the lack of funding remains the major barrier to progressing works on the Old Tram Bridge, and any solution will cost significant funds to resolve its current state.
They said: “The council fully recognises that the bridge is an important link in the active travel network linking Preston and South Ribble.
“The Avenham Viaduct located 400m to the west of the Old Tram Bridge still provides a cycle and pedestrian link across the River Ribble, albeit with a ramped access to get to the level of the park. This ramp is no more steep than the incline from the Old Tram Bridge.
“The council, together with Lancashire County Council, remain committed to looking for funding opportunities to advance works on the bridge. The recently announced Levelling Up Fund may provide a further opportunity to seek funding.
“The Old Tram Bridge will be but one of a number of projects that will be assessed by the council for eligibility, alongside other key projects across the city for submission to a future funding round.”
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The spokesperson said when the council secures the means to make progress with a scheme, the solution will involve engagement with the community.
Mr Dewhurst said in a reply that he was disappointed by the email as it did not answer the fundamental points he raised.
He said: “Preston City Council’s approach to the Levelling Up Fund has left much to be desired, with many residents beginning to question whether the authority truly understands the purpose of this scheme or the sense of urgency that underpins it.
“What the council has completely failed to understand is that any proposed project must be delivered by the end of this parliament. With one round having already passed with no bid submitted, time is running out to ensure our city receives its fair share of investment.”
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In the letter, Mr Dewhurst highlighted how other authorities have already submitted plans.
He mentioned Somerset West and Taunton Council, which have applied for £20m to revitalise an industrial mill, West Dunbartonshire Council, which asked for £5m to purchase a shopping centre, and Stockton Council, for its plans to build an exhibition centre.
He said: “To the man or woman on the street, it appears as though Preston still has no plan for the Levelling Up Fund and is reliant on leaving any submission to the eleventh hour. That approach could cost the people of Preston more than £20 million.
“That is why prioritising the Old Tram Bridge makes such obvious sense. Other than opening this iconic structure, no other project on this scale has been identified that could realistically be delivered within the next few years and is oven-ready’.
“The council says there are ‘more important priorities,’ but as things stand today, those priorities represent little more than ideas on the back of a cigarette packet.”
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In response, Sir Mark Hendrick said that in principle, he favours the re-opening of Old Tram Bridge, but only if funding is made available to complete the project.
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