A campaign to stop the demolition of a ‘much loved’ historic bridge between Kirdford and Wisborough Green has been backed by thousands of residents.
A petition to save Boxal Bridge in Kirdford Road received 3,376 signatures and was debated at a West Sussex County Council meeting in Chichester’s County Hall on Friday.
But John O’Brien, cabinet member for highways and transport, said that no decision on the bridge’s future would be made until he was in full possession of all the facts.
After the meeting resident Jill Sutcliffe said: “It’s obvious it’s been kicked into the long grass but I feel the debate covered the important points.”
She added: “It’s caused them to think. The danger for us is that they carry on like we’re not there.”
A feasibility report in 2014 cited structurally significant defects in the bridge and recommended a full replacement on the basis of whole-life cost.
But Dr Sutcliffe argued that at no point had the proposal to demolish the bridge been justified.
Residents suggested that what was really needed was improved road signs to make the one-lane crossing safer.
Speaking in support of the petition during the meeting, resident Peter Mann described it as a ‘much loved aspect of the local area’, and added: “Are we really going to jettison our heritage?”
He voiced residents’ concerns that road safety would be compromised if the crossing was widened, and described how the 150-year-old bridge serves as a natural ‘pinch point’, forcing traffic to slow down.
Meanwhile councilllors raised the potential financial costs of replacing the bridge, the impact on the local community, and the effect on the area’s rural environment.
Lionel Parsons (UKIP, Sompting and North Lancing) thought destroying the bridge would be ‘sacrilege’, while others argued that since the bridge is still safe and fit for purpose the resources would be better used elsewhere.
Sue Mullins (Lab, Gossops Green and Ifield East) described the bridge as a ‘picturesque piece of local history’, while Janet Duncton (Con, Petworth) explained how both parish councils were challenging the fact that the currently preferred option of replacement was cheaper.
Although no vote was taken on supporting petition itself residents found councillors’ comments reassuring.
Dr Sutcliffe said they were grateful to councillors who showed their support, and argued that the key thing was that the county council had not yet dismissed their case.
The petition itself was not voted on as a proposal put forward by Amanda Jupp (Con, Billingshurst) was approved by councillors.
It called on WSCC to work with both parish councils to find the most acceptable solution taking into account the rural environment and the historic and architectural merit of the bridge.
However Mike Glennon (UKIP, Lancing) argued it was wrong that they had not been given a chance to vote on the petition itself.
Plans for exploratory drilling at a site near the bridge were rejected by WSCC in 2014, and earlier this year the firm behind proposals dropped its appeal against the decision.
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