Durham residents campaign against bridge closure 

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Local residents in Durham have begun a “Save Leazes Footbridge” campaign after Durham County Council announced plans to demolish the footbridge on 5th February 2024. 

The footbridge, which crosses the A690 near the roundabout between Gilesgate and Claypath follows the original medieval route, allowing locals and tourists to walk on foot into Durham’s famous peninsular, which if closed, would mean those on foot would have to cross the dual carriageway using the light controlled crossing. 

Currently, the Council’s plans are to construct a pedestrian crossing at the lights at the top of Leazes Road at Gilesgate roundabout. A local resident told Palatinate that the footbridge had been built in the 1970s, due to the number of injuries that occurred on the main road, especially as the busy crossing serves students at the College of St. Hild and St. Bede. 

The bridge was closed to the public in July 2023 after a routine investigation by Durham County Council. In subsequent specialist investigations, it was found that the components of the bridge had degraded, meaning that the structure as it stands is no longer safe to bear the weight of pedestrians. 

Repairing the footbridge was the first option we considered; however, the footbridge is beyond economical repair

Mark Readman, Durham County council

The report found that there was no immediate risk of the footbridge collapsing, however, the Council have announced that the footbridge will be demolished before summer 2024.  It will take around four weeks for the demolition to occur, with the main part of the bridge being taken out overnight. 

One of the members behind the local campaign told Palatinate that they were disappointed that there had not been a public consultation about closing the footbridge, and that the Council had not assessed the impact of closing it on the local residents. However, Mark Readman, head of highways at Durham County Council, said in a statement to Palatinate, “Leazes Footbridge is being demolished on health and safety grounds after detailed examinations revealed it can no longer bear the weight of pedestrians. In such instances, action must be taken to protect the public.” 

The group also advocated for more cost-effective repair work to be done to the bridge, however Mr Readman told Palatinate that “repairing the footbridge was the first option we considered; however, the footbridge is beyond economical repair.”

“I would like to assure residents that we are committed to providing an alternative means of crossing the A690. We are progressing plans to introduce a pedestrian crossing at the existing traffic lights at the top of Leazes Road at Gilesgate Roundabout.”

Further updates on the footbridge are available at durham.gov.uk/LeazesFootbridge, the petition is available at democracy.durham.gov.uk/mgEPetitionDisplay.aspx?id=228.

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