Villagers told to pay £780 a year to use bridge
PUBLISHED: 10:50 24 October 2020 | UPDATED: 15:41 24 October 2020
Angry villagers have been told they will have to pay almost £800 a year to use a bridge they have been crossing for free for almost 50 years.
The iron structure links the two tiny hamlets of Little Ouse and Brandon Bank, on opposite sides of the Little Ouse River on the Norfolk-Cambridgeshire border east of Littleport.
Now people living in the two communities, which are home to around 200, have been sent letters saying they will have to pay £650 plus VAT to continue using it.
Signs warn the bridge, which is owned by the South Yorkshire Pensions Authority, is private and will be closed from Monday.
Designer Andy Preston, 54, who has lived on Brandon Bank for 16 years, said: “Things are being dealt with in quite a draconian fashion.”
Villagers used to chip in to maintain the road and the bridge. But some said damage caused by heavy farm vehicles meant they could no longer afford it.
Mr Preston said the figure of £650 a year was based on everyone contributing. If any refused, the shortfall would have to be met by those who did pay.
Retired engineer Mal Ford, who lives next to the bridge, said: “It’s terrible what’s happening.
“They want to charge £14 a week to go across a bridge, when they’ve got assets of £8.46bn and reserves of £25m.”
Carer Niki Tinsley, 54, lives in the former Anchor Inn by the river. Like her neighbours, she faces a detour of nearly 20 miles, much of it along single-track farm roads to get to Littleport or Ely to shop.
“This recent bridge has been here since 1974 but we’ve never been restricted,” she said.
A spokesperson from Bidwells on behalf of the South Yorkshire Pensions Authority said: “The South Yorkshire Pensions Authority understands its obligations as the owner of this now, very old private bridge and is actively seeking a solution to how it is best maintained and repaired in the coming years.
“Positive discussions and meetings have taken place with a local users group during which they were advised of the options facing them which include, inter alia, the idea of transferring ownership of the bridge to them, something our client is very willing to do.
“The principal users of the bridge have responded favourably to these suggestions.
“This is very much not a profit making exercise. At some stage the bridge will need to be replaced and that fund would need to be available at that time.”
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