The National Trust is under pressure to rebuild a bridge it controversially removed in Stiffkey almost two years ago as the route over the marshes is set to become a public right of way.

In March 2021 the trust removed a wooden footbridge that had been used to cross Stiffkey marshes for more than half a century. 

The decision was met with anger from locals, who have been tussling with the trust and calling for it to build a new bridge ever since. 

But now Norfolk County Council has begun the process of making the creek crossing a public right of way, piling pressure on the trust.

Eastern Daily Press: Ian Curtis on the Stiffkey 'fairy bridge'Ian Curtis on the Stiffkey 'fairy bridge' (Image: Denise Bradley)

Subject to a statutory consultation, the designated public footpath will be approximately 644 metres, with the council saying there is “sufficient evidence of frequent public use of the route over a relevant 20-year period from March 2002 to March 2022, at which time the bridge was removed”.

Ian Curtis, a lifelong Stiffkey resident, said the trust now has “no choice” but to rebuild it.

“The public footpath crosses the creek so they’ve got to put a bridge up now,” he said.

“It’ll put pressure on the National Trust. They’ll have a job to get out of this one because you can’t have a footpath without a bridge.”

Eastern Daily Press: Ian Curtis on the Stiffkey 'fairy bridge'

The trust has announced it hopes to begin rebuilding the bridge in September this year, which should be complete by the end of autumn.

The charity said it aims to apply for planning permission by spring for a 20-metre bridge, which could cost up to £250,000.

It will be revealing its plans for the new bridge at a drop-in session at Morston Village Hall on Thursday 25 January, between 2pm and 6.30pm. 

Victoria Egan, general manager for the National Trust on the Norfolk Coast, said: “We're aware of Norfolk County Council's decision to make an order to formally dedicate a path as a public right of way at Stiffkey.

"We have been engaged with them throughout the process and did not object to their plans, on what was already a National Trust permissive path, where we're currently progressing with our project to install a new footbridge.

“As part of our conversations with the council, we did raise concerns around the impact of increased footfall that would likely come with a formal dedication, on what is a fragile environment and sensitive breeding bird area that will likely be impacted by coastal change.

"It’s a careful balance to get right and we will need all users of the footpath to help work with us to ensure we keep this place special.”