The need for more work on Great Yarmouth's long-awaited new £121m bridge means council leaders still cannot say when it will open.

The Third River Crossing had been due to open in time for the seaside town's summer season, only for an unexploded bomb and the discovery of a vole burrow to trigger delays.

Eastern Daily Press: The Third River Crossing at Great YarmouthThe Third River Crossing at Great Yarmouth (Image: Mike Page)

Council leaders said in July that the Herring Bridge would open in September, but, at a council meeting on Tuesday (September 26), they admitted that would not be happening.

Eastern Daily Press: Labour county councillor Mike Smith-ClareLabour county councillor Mike Smith-Clare (Image: Labour Party)

Labour county councillor Mike Smith-Clare asked, now that 'Volegate' had been resolved, when the bridge would open.

Graham Plant, the council's cabinet member for highways, transport and infrastructure, said he could not give a precise date.

Eastern Daily Press: Graham Plant, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, transport and infrastructureGraham Plant, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, transport and infrastructure (Image: Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk)

He said: "I was at a meeting yesterday discussing this. There are some issues which need to be sorted out. There's some further work to be done.

"I cannot give a precise date. We haven't been given one by the contractor. We have been given an 'about' date, but I don't want to give you an 'about' date. I will give you an exact date once I know it."

Richard Hayman, construction manager for BAM Farrans Joint Venture, the contractor delivering the Third River Crossing on behalf of the council, said: "We are slightly behind where we wanted to be at this stage, which is the result of re-sequencing some of the works, finalising some of the utility works and completing the additional improvement works at Harfreys junction.

"But we hope to provide further updates as soon as possible and thank the public for their continued patience and support."

Mr Hayma added: "I can confirm there are no issues with voles or the operation of the bridge leaves [the lifting sections of the structure].

"The exclusion zone around the potential [vole] burrow discovered earlier this year remains in place, but is not impacting our work programme.

"There are still some highway works to complete on the Gorleston side of the river and commissioning a new bridge like this is a highly complex operation.

"A number of systems and processes need to be in place and we are working with the port authority to complete this as quickly as possible.

"Only once we enter the initial phase of operation to marine vessels will we be in a position to provide a likely date for the full opening to all traffic."


What was 'Volegate'?

The reference to 'Volegate' was because Mr Plant had blamed a previous delay partly on the discovery that a vole appeared to be living near the bridge.

Eastern Daily Press: A previous delay was blamed on a voleA previous delay was blamed on a vole (Image: National Trust)

Mr Plant had said voles were "more highly protected than bats" and work had to be delayed as a result.

A county council spokesman later clarified that although the vole's burrow had been discovered, investigations failed to reveal the whereabouts of the creature itself.

That meant work could go ahead again, without the need to relocate the animal.