The Punchbowl in was known for its pies and quiz nights
Anticipation has been building in Darley Abbey as the pieces of a new footbridge have begun to arrive. The new footbridge will allow pedestrians and cyclists to cross the River Derwent from Old Lane and Darley Abbey Mills for the first time since mid-May, but only after a complicated construction and installation process devised by Derby City Council and engineers.
The temporary structure, which is expected to be in place for around 12 months, was delivered flat-packed on the back of two lorries on the morning of Tuesday, September 20. It will be built through Tuesday and will be mostly finished by the evening of Wednesday, September 21.
At around 6am on Thursday, September 22, the pieces of a large crane with a 500-tonne lifting capacity will arrive from a specialist firm based in Middlesbrough, along with a smaller crane needed to put it together, and several ballast trucks. That will be assembled throughout Thursday, before the last parts of the bridge are added on the morning of Friday, September 23.
At around lunchtime on Friday is when the lift will begin. The structure, weighing 40 tonnes, will be lifted around 25 metres into the air by the crane at around noon on Friday, over existing trees, to be lowered and secured around a metre above the existing, closed bridge.
However, all of that depends on the weather. Rain and a light breeze are forecast for Friday, and if wind speeds are too high – decided by an anemometer fitted onto the crane itself – the lift will be called off over safety concerns.
But as the pieces of the bridge were delivered to the site on September 20, residents appeared excited and relieved to see a solution coming to fruition. Richard McLachlan, a nearby resident, said he had “never seen such big lorries” ahead of the construction.
He said: “It’s good to see something happening. I did not cross the bridge that often, but it was useful to get to the other side.
“[The road closures] are more of a disruption for people living here, but it’s a small price to pay. You can’t go the quick way to Morrisons without the bridge.”
The temporary structure is believed to have cost around £250,000. Several other temporary solutions were originally proposed, including putting the temporary structure either to the north or south of the bridge, but these were eventually dismissed due to various geographical and financial constraints.
Once the new structure is fitted, ramps will be installed on either side to allow users to get off easily. It is hoped that it will open in early October, although an exact date is yet to be confirmed in case there are delays due to weather or other factors.
Barbara, another nearby resident who did not wish to give her surname, said: “It’s wonderful, and I’m quite impressed to be honest that it’s moving, after the Queen’s funeral held us up for a day. It’s been really nice not having all the traffic, you don’t realise how much of a rat run it was until now, so if we don’t have a bridge for cars built I will be quite pleased about that.
“But not having the bridge means you have to go the long way around to Morrisons. We also went over to use the restaurants and the wine bar in the evenings, it’s great over there [at Darley Abbey Mills].
“It’s brilliant [that the bridge is being installed] and it looks very well-organised. They have kept us informed on social media too.”
Mr and Mrs Boyce, who did not wish to give their first names, had like many stopped to watch the work taking place. They said: “It could have been left as it is, so we think the council have been brilliant and it is great that they have worked to do something.
“We regularly walk around the park, and our car is serviced at a garage across the bridge, but fortunately we have not had to have it serviced. The roadworks for the bridge installation have not really affected us, but you accept these things as a small price to pay.
“We felt very sorry for the businesses though. They had just got themselves established and then this happened.”
As well as continued communication from Derby City Council and work behind the scenes from local councillors, Martin Repton, Alison Martin and Carmel Swan, residents meetings have been held by Derby North MP, Amanda Solloway, who has been approached for comment.
Cllr Martin said: “I am very pĺeased that the temporary bridge should be in place by the end of this week. As soon as the bridge had to be closed, I called on the council to step in to provide a temporary bridge, as it looked like the only realistic way to provide pedestrian and cyclist access in the short-term while the longer-term aim of securing funding for a permanent replacement is pursued.
“The bridge closure has created much anxiety among residents and for the businesses in the mills – only last week I attended an information event to discuss the emergency services’ response plans for that area. Installing the temporary bridge will prove quite a feat of engineering – but we should always have confidence in Derby’s engineers. Funding for the permanent replacement bridge will have to come from the government – let’s hope they see the importance of this bridge.”
Once the structure is installed, the focus will turn to a permanent replacement for the closed bridge, which was shut in mid-May after it was found to be at risk of collapsing under its own weight following flood damage. A complicated process has then ensued to decide who owns and is responsible for the bridge, with the city council eventually stepping in as “provider of last resort” to fund the new footbridge.
Cllr Repton said: “This is the start of a very important week for re-connecting the village, villagers’ lives and the many businesses badly affected by the old bridge’s closure. It is what we have fought for and we can now look forward to each side of the river being reunited.
“For me the next battle now moves onto getting the three parties, the government, the mills’ owners and city council, to fully accept their own roles in ensuring a permanent replacement bridge is actively committed to, with the necessary funding put in place as quickly as possible.”
At a residents’ meeting in late July, Nigel Brien, head of traffic and transportation at Derby City Council, said that this new footbridge buys time to find a second temporary solution to the problem, which itself would be in place for around three years. In that time, funding could hopefully be found and plans enacted for a permanent solution.
But while the council would fund the second temporary structure with taxpayer money, a permanent solution – which could cost up to £5 million – would require funding from various sources, including money from outside sources and grants. This could include the government and some of the more than 50 businesses at the Mills, but the Crown Estate, which technically owns the bridge, and the city council’s Our City Our River fund have both been ruled out as funding sources.
Written by: Admin
The Punchbowl in was known for its pies and quiz nights