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Giant crane lifts new £250,000 Darley Abbey footbridge into place

today23 September 2022 1

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A new £250,000 bridge has been installed over the River Derwent in an operation that involved a giant crane lifting the structure over the treetops and into place. Residents and engineers have expressed their glee after the 40-tonne bridge was successfully lifted into place in Darley Abbey, after weeks of planning.

The footbridge, which will open in early October, was lifted into position in around 30 minutes. The successful lift signals the beginning of the end of a huge effort by Derby City Council, engineers and local representatives, residents and businesses to find a solution to the issue of finding a new bridge, after the original structure was closed over safety concerns on May 13.

Dozens turned out to watch the lift, many of whom were armed with phones and cameras to capture the moment that the structure was lifted around 30 metres into the air and then lowered into place. Some nearby homeowners celebrated by drinking prosecco and others applauded as it was confirmed that the plan had gone off without a hitch. Afterwards, many praised all involved for their quick-thinking and clear communication throughout the process.

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Elaine Crick lives in Old Lane, which has been closed since Tuesday, September 20, so work could be carried out, meaning she has had access to her house blocked by the crane and works to move the bridge into position. However, she and her neighbours were full of praise for those involved in delivering the project

With a celebratory glass of prosecco in hand, she said: “The precision has been fantastic, and now we just have to wait for the platforms to be fitted, and friends and neighbours can walk across the bridge like we used to before May. It’s been a fantastic job by all concerned.

“It’s not just the communication, but the communication has been clear and concise and on a daily basis. On top of that, the team have done the little things that mean a lot, like collecting milk and newspapers for us, delivering post and taking the bins out. We haven’t missed out on anything, and if that isn’t the council working for us, I don’t know what is.

“We love them all and we want to hug the lot of them. It’s been fantastic how they’ve managed to construct all of this in such a tiny space.”



Elaine (pictured second left, top) was one of many residents celebrating the new footbridge in Darley Abbey
Elaine (second left, top) was one of many residents celebrating the new footbridge in Darley Abbey

It was all smiles among the team of engineers who helped to deliver the project once the bridge had been successfully installed, with one describing it as “bang on”. The new bridge sits around a metre above the existing deck, and will only be wide enough for pedestrians and cyclists, although the latter will have to dismount.

Paul and Gill Grant, from Allestree, are the parents of one of the engineers and were watching on with pride as events unfolded. Paul said: “It’s been immaculate. It’s a fantastic achievement, to have lifted it in one go. We used the old bridge a lot for walks, so we are excited to see something there now, and this is what the locals want, I believe, access to the other side.”

Gill said: “The planning and the feat of engineering, with the restrictions in place too, have been excellent. We are very proud to see how they have worked on it and how it has all come together.”



Gill and Paul Grant, who watched on with pride.
Gill and Paul Grant, who watched on with pride.

The crane used to lift it into place is set to be derigged and removed on Saturday, September 24, with work then beginning to install ramps on either side to allow access and add finishing touches to the bridge, including mesh fencing to deter divers. Security will be in place to ensure no one accesses the structure before it is safe, with the date of a naming and opening ceremony to be confirmed.

Phil Massey, group engineer for structural design and bridges at the city council, said: “It’s a relief to know things have gone well and everyone is really relieved. It’s gone in perfectly, the bridge is down a lot quicker than we thought it would be, and it’s a good result.

“The words of residents are very much appreciated. The team, collectively, has worked really hard to get to this point. All the planning and hard work that has gone into this week has allowed it to go really well, and we will now get on with the rest of the work.”

The solution of the temporary footbridge has been found, designed, delivered and installed in just over five months, after the original bridge – which dates back to the 19th century – was found to be at risk of collapsing under its own weight during a routine inspection in mid-May. Since then, there has been a complicated battle to decide who owns and is responsible for the bridge, and who is responsible for installing a temporary solution, with the City Council stepping in as the provider of last resort.



The bridge, pictured, once open, will allow for pedestrian access between Old Lane and Darley Abbey Mills, over the River Derwent.
The bridge, once open, will allow for pedestrian access between Old Lane and Darley Abbey Mills, over the River Derwent.

Councillor Alison Martin, who represents Darley ward on the city council, said: “I think it’s fantastic. It’s come about quickly thanks to action from the council and congratulations today are to the council’s engineering team and the contractors, who have pulled off a difficult feat of engineering to get this in place for everybody.

“It’s been vital to find a solution. We’ve been doing everything we can to support businesses, residents have been really concerned for a whole number of reasons, including emergency service access, and there is also the use of Darley Park. To get this in place, while it’s been long enough for those affected, this has been pretty quick for something like this.”

Amanda Solloway, MP for Derby North, who arranged several residents meetings ahead of the bridge lift, said: “After regular business and update meetings, it is fantastic news that we have finally reached this stage and everything is going according to plan. I am pleased that life for residents and businesses will be back to normal very soon. I look forward to seeing the opening of the bridge.”

The temporary structure, which is believed to have cost around £250,000 and is owned by the council, is set to be in place for at least 12 months while a second temporary solution is found and installed elsewhere. While that second solution is in place, work will begin on finding a permanent solution on the site of the existing bridges, which could cost up to £5 million.

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