Search

Villagers told to pay £780 a year to use bridge

PUBLISHED: 10:50 24 October 2020 | UPDATED: 15:41 24 October 2020

Andy Preston beside the bridge across the Little Ouse, which villagers have been told they will have to pay £650 plus VAT a year to continue using  Picture: Chris Bishop

Andy Preston beside the bridge across the Little Ouse, which villagers have been told they will have to pay £650 plus VAT a year to continue using Picture: Chris Bishop

Archant

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.

Villagers living on either side of the Little Ouse river have been using the bridge since it was built in 1974  Picture: Chris BishopVillagers living on either side of the Little Ouse river have been using the bridge since it was built in 1974 Picture: Chris Bishop

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.”

A new sign warns the road and bridge are both private Picture: Chris BishopA new sign warns the road and bridge are both private Picture: Chris Bishop

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.”

Villagers have been told the road will be closed from Monday  Picture: Chris BishopVillagers have been told the road will be closed from Monday Picture: Chris Bishop

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.”


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Eastern Daily Press. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Eastern Daily Press