'Against law' warning as scheme agreed to stop Carrow Bridge lifting

Carrow Bridge in Norwich, which is requiring repairs for the third time in just over a year Picture:

Councillors have agreed to fix Carrow Bridge into place to cut repair bills. - Credit: copyright: Archant 2014

A move to stop a Norwich bridge from lifting up would impinge on a legal duty to allow boats access to the city and is likely to spark "significant concerns", it has been warned.

Norfolk County Council's cabinet agreed on Monday for work which would temporarily fix Carrow Bridge, more than a century old, into place.

The council has spent £150,000 over the past five years to repair the bridge and said that spending £150,000 in summer 2022 would help reduce the costs - and disruption to drivers.

Broads Authority chief executive John Packman at How Hill. Picture: Denise Bradley

John Packman, chief executive of the Broads Authority. - Credit: ©Archant Photographic 2009

But John Packman, chief executive of the Broads Authority, which will need to be consulted over the work, said it was likely to prove controversial.

A report to the council's cabinet said the deck panels on the bridge had been "a very expensive maintenance liability" due to them becoming loose and breaking up due to the heavy and continuous road traffic.

Fixing it in place, the council said, would reduce how often maintenance was required, although it would mean it could no longer lift to allow tall vessels to pass.

The council had considered spending more than £2m on a three-month repair scheme which would allow the bridge to keep lifting, but decided on the other option.

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport.

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport. - Credit: Simon Parkin

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport, said: "In the last five years, the only times the bridge has been lifted is for regular bridge maintenance works and to allow the floating restaurant and training ship to sail downstream.

"It would be a short-term fix while a longer-term solution is agreed upon, which depends on future decisions around the Trowse Rail Bridge and wider area."

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A new marina has been mooted for the East Norwich Masterplan, which is looking to regenerate the area around The Deal Ground, Utilities Site and the former Colman's site.

But access to that scheme depends on the replacement of the Trowse Swing Bridge, which is currently single track.

Mr Wilby added: "We will be seeking views on any scheme, which would be subject to the approval of the Broads Authority.”

But Broads Authority chief executive Mr Packman said: "Members of the Broads Authority and its navigation committee have not yet had opportunity to discuss or comment on these proposals.

"The Broads Authority welcomes Norfolk County Council’s intention to consult the authority on the options for repairing Carrow Bridge, and the costs involved and we look forward to seeing these."

But section 61 of the Norwich Corporation Act 1920 states that the bridge must be able to open to allow vessels to pass.

It states: "The bridge shall at all times be maintained, opened and worked by the Corporation so as to give priority to vessels requiring to pass through the opening span of the bridge over road traffic requiring to use the bridge…”

And Mr Packman said: "The county council has a legal duty to open Carrow Bridge to river traffic and I suspect the Broads Authority’s members will have significant concerns about a proposal that would prevent the bridge from lifting, even in the short-term.

"The fact that there have been a very limited number of times when the bridge has been lifted for boats in recent years does not reflect the demand for larger boats to access the port of Norwich."

A report is being prepared on the topic to seek the views of the Broads Authority's navigation committee at its next meeting on April 15.

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