Closing coastal footbridge will have 'devastating' impact, pub owner says
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
A pub owner has warned closing the footbridge connecting Southwold and Walberswick in the summer would be "devastating" to his business in its post-lockdown recovery.
The Bailey bridge connecting the two coastal resorts over the River Blyth is in need of repairs, which are set to be completed at some point this year.
The structure was temporarily closed in 2018 after a report found "severe corrosion" in its support beams.
It is frequently used by Southwold and Walberswick residents and tourists as it is the quickest route by foot between the two resorts without using the ferry service.
The highways team at Suffolk County Council is set to inspect the bridge before deciding when the revamp, which will take several weeks, will take place.
Mark Dorber, who manages the Anchor pub in Walberswick with his wife Sophie, said his business lost a quarter of its trade during the bridge's first closure.
He has called for the repair project to be delayed until after the summer as keeping it open would boost the area's tourism industry in the recovery from the lockdown.
Mr Dorber said: "The council had the opportunity to do the repairs during the lockdown, when it would have had a minimal impact on businesses.
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"All the businesses in the area are opposed to a decision being made without proper consultation. It will reduce our business by at least 25%.
"Unless the county council has a cast-iron case, we are asking for the works to be postponed. It would be devastating.
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"It should have been done during the lockdown. It's important from everyone's point of view - our businesses rely on cash flow."
A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: "We are continuing to engage with key stakeholders within the communities to ensure that when the bridge does need to close, that we are in the position to do whatever we can to minimise the impact of the closure - including extended ferry operations.
"A further inspection of the bridge is to take place towards the end of April 2021 to ascertain whether the bridge can be kept open until after the summer peak.
"However, we must plan for every eventuality - if the bridge needs to close sooner, we will be ready to mitigate where possible.
"We fully recognise the impact a closure of such a well-used structure could have on locals, visitors and those operating businesses - this and the safety of those using the bridge are our top priorities."