Three ideas to be put to Preston public for Old Tram Bridge designs

Posted on - 18th January, 2024 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Avenham, Preston City Centre, Preston Council, Preston News, Redevelopment
The closed Old Tram Bridge Pic: Ashley Warren Preston
The closed Old Tram Bridge Pic: Ashley Warren Preston

Three potential designs for the structure that will replace Preston’s Old Tram Bridge are to be put to the public in the coming weeks, the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) understands.

The long-awaited blueprints are due to appear once final arrangements have been made to start preparing the site for the work that will be needed to install the new crossing between Avenham Park and Penwortham.

It is now almost five years since its crumbling predecessor was condemned and closed off after a survey found that it was at risk of collapsing into the river that it spans.

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Residents will be asked for their thoughts on the trio of replacement options, which it is understood are unlikely to vary significantly from each other because of environmental constraints posed by the location.

Cost will also have been a key consideration for the project, which is to be funded by a share of Preston City Council’s £20.9m allocation from the government’s Levelling Up Fund.    As the LDRS revealed last year, David Borrow – the cabinet member who was responsible for the scheme until he stepped down from his position in November – has previously warned locals to expect a “basic” design.

It is the first time that the exact number of design proposals to expect has been revealed, but campaigners who have been pushing for a new cross-river connection – since it became clear that the current one would never reopen – have told the LDRS that they are worried by how long it is long is taking for the plans to be put in the public domain.

Glenn Cookson, of the Friends of Tram Bridge, said that he had been expecting an update on the project in early December, which he said would have been in keeping with the government-imposed deadline of March 2025 for the completion of Levelling Up Fund schemes.

“There’s a very small window of opportunity to spend this money and deliver this bridge – and it is concerning that nothing substantial has yet been published regarding the outline of the project.

“My commitment is to keep the pressure on Preston City Council and Lancashire County Council and we have been engaging with them both,” Glenn added.

A spokesperson for the city authority said that work is “progressing well behind the scenes”.

“Some last, essential legal arrangements and permissions are currently being finalised in order to move on site and start the important preparation works for the installation of the new bridge.

“Local residents may have already seen some activity around the site as some works need to be carried out on the trees in the vicinity out of the nesting season. It is also imperative that some preparatory works are carried out at times when it is safe to work in the river around tidal currents and to minimise environmental impacts on the surrounding area.”

“We look forward to sharing the bridge designs with everyone very shortly.”

Meanwhile, the city council is set to dedicate the surface of the new bridge – and a small section of the tramway on the south side of the River Ribble – to Lancashire County Council as a bridleway.

If approved by town hall cabinet members next week, it would mean that County Hall would become responsible for the maintenance of that surface as part of its highways network.  However, the city council – which is the freehold owner of the bridge – would retain responsibility for the structure itself.

In the wake of the bridge’s shock closure back in 2019, there was confusion over which authority bore ultimate responsibility for it.

It has not yet been revealed how much of Preston’s Levelling Up pot will be spent on the new bridge.  As the LDRS revealed in 2021, the estimated cost of the structure at that point was £6m – but inflation is likely to have caused the figure to rise since.  However, match funding is also contributing to the budget for the scheme.

Last week, designs which had been used during the course of initial discussions about a new tram bridge five years ago were posted online by a Preston architect involved in the project, prompting speculation that the style of the replacement structure had been chosen.

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