After nearly five years of waiting, campaigning & general Council dithering over the restoration of the Green Iron Bridge, I recently wrote to the Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, for an update. Here is the correspondence and his reply:
From: Dan Linstead
Date: Sunday, 10 May 2020 at 20:35
Subject: How can you fix a city, if you can’t fix a footbridge?
I was interested to read your recent opinion piece on the need to redesign Bristol as a more innately sustainable city in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown. As you say, “We need a system that makes low impact living something our system provides even if you are not thinking about it or able to spend the extra”. I agree.
With that thought in mind, I would like to bring your attention back to the plight of the Green Iron Bridge at Kingsweston, near your childhood home in Lawrence Weston. As you know, this well-used and historic footbridge over the B4057 Kings Weston Road has now been closed to walkers, schoolchildren, families and other locals for nearly FIVE YEARS.
The bridge is the only safe crossing between the Blaise and Kingsweston estates, which are regularly used by thousands of people, during lockdown and otherwise. Designed in 1820 by the great roadbuilder John McAdam, this elegant bridge is a perfect example of an amenity which encourages “low impact living” ie walking. Yet for nearly five years, all pedestrians have been forced to detour from the safe, direct route between the estates, and instead run (and you do have to literally run) across a busy arterial road at an accident black spot junction.
Instead of a beautiful bridge through a conservation area, we have a “Footpath closed” sign and an ugly tangle of scaffolding and barriers (see attached).
My son was 9 when he could last use that bridge. Next year he is taking his GCSEs.
The council’s record on the repair of the footbridge has been lamentable. We local residents have been promised solutions and delivery dates for its restoration time and again. We have seen four different council ministers for Transport make unfulfilled promises for its reopening. We have staged a rally attended by councillors and our local MP Darren Jones. We have seen nearly £100,000 of taxpayers’ money spent on ‘temporary’ scaffolding. We have seen petty squabbles between different departments at the Council over the best solution. And after years of waiting, we have seen the council’s Highways team’s restoration proposal (in early 2019) shot down by Planning officers amidst heritage concerns.
Now – another year since that proposal was put on ice – we have had no further word. We have been fobbed off again, and again, and again. And unsurprisingly, many locals see this issue as confirmation that our elected officials are either uncaring, incompetent or both.
So my question to you, Marvin, is simple: if your Council cannot repair a 10-metre footbridge in five long years, how can you be trusted to reinvent our entire city for a more sustainable future?
I look forward to your reply.
After a 5 week wait – with an email to chase up in the middle, in which I acknowledged the challenging situation for the Council (and everyone) caused by the coronavirus lockdown, I received this reply:
From: Mayor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thursday, 18 June 2020 at 10:17
To: Dan Linstead
Subject: RE: How can you fix a city, if you can’t fix a footbridge?
Thanks for your email and your patience while I replied.
I’m grateful you acknowledge the impact on the city of the coronavirus pandemic and the impact on the office and our teams. This is a rapidly changing situation and as an authority we are having moving fast to implement new measures almost on a daily basis. I am not always able to respond to emails as quickly as I’d like.
I share your frustration at the continuing lack of progress with the bridge and your emails have prompted me to follow up with the various teams involved to see where we are. I know there are problems with access to the site with which I asked the teams to come up with creative solutions. I’ve asked my office to follow up. I’ll come back to you.
Thanks again for your email.
Mayor of Bristol
- Mayor’s Office
Bristol City Council
City Hall, College Green
Bristol BS1 5TR
- Postal Address: Mayor’s Office, Bristol City Council, PO Box 3399, Bristol BS1 9NE