The Oundle Bridge Closure – Peace and Quiet Descends

07:20 Tuesday 21st June 2011
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: No end in sight for businesses in Oundle that are losing trade because of this closed bridge. South Bridge is one of the main routes into Oundle. It’s been closed since March because of damage to its structure. It’s the bridge that takes you over to Barnwell Country Mill and all that, and Barnwell Garden Centre. The County Council hasn’t even given a ballpark date for when the bridge is going to be fixed. BBC Radio Cambridgeshire’s Dottie McLeod was there yesterday, in the beautiful tranquil surroundings of Oundle. (TAPE)
DOTTIE MCLEOD: No cars, no lorries, just a smattering of birdsong and the occasional splash from the river below. Not what you’d expect when you’re standing in the middle of one of the main roads into Oundle. It certainly makes it a relaxing place to pass the time, but for some residents, it’s frankly inconvenient.
VOXPOP: It’s ratrher a disaster for people living at this end of Oundle. We have to go a long way to get to Kettering. We found it very inconvenient, especially if you want to go to the garden centre. — Well obviously, the businesses down here, we’d often pop to the garden centre. But you can’t pop there at lunchtime any longer. — I think it’s utterly appalling. It’s certainly affecting the businesses down on the Barnwell Road. It’s also having an impact on the town itself. The whole vibrance of the town is being affected.
DOTTIE MCLEOD: Right, now I’m back at the car, and I am parked on Benefield Road in Oundle, in the Drill Hall Car Park. And what I’m going to do is drive to the Barn Garden Centre. That’s the business that a lot of those residents mentioned, and see how long it takes me with the detour in place. By my reckoning, if I could go over South Bridge, it would be less than a kilometre away. So let’s see when I arrive. The time on the clock now is ten minutes to two. I’ll let you know when I get there. (BREAK) Well I’ve just pulled up to the garden centre on Barnwell Road. The time is now dead on two o’clock. So that’s taken me a full ten minutes. If I’d been able to go over South Bridge, it would have been considerably less than five. And for a business where convenience and passing trade is money, I’d imagine they’re being hit pretty hard. (BREAK)
PAUL WILSON: I think It’s affecting me quite a lot. I think it’s stopping people coming out for little errands. The passing trade has really dropped off, and it couldn’t have come at a worst time. It’s in our busy time, so we feel like we’ve missed out on a lot really. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Businesses struggling in Oundle. Dottie McLeod there, out and about there yesterday. We can now speak to David Bateman, who represents Oundle on East Northants District Council. Morning David.
DAVID BATEMAN: Good morning.
PAUL STAINTON: This bridge, a bit of a lifeline for that side of the town, isn’t it?
DAVID BATEMAN: Yes it is. There’s been a good thing about its closure is that heavy goods vehicles have had to go round of course, which they always should have done. A temporary repair would be a good idea. I’ve seen pictures of a fissure underneath, where water has washed away ballast.
PAUL STAINTON: Right, so that’s what’s wrong with the bridge, is it?
DAVID BATEMAN: That’s what’s wrong with it. It’s a heritage bridge, so it needs to be put toigether again as well as possible. But a temporary measure would easily be done in a couple of days really.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. because it’s been closed for a few months now, hasn’t it?
DAVID BATEMAN: Oh yes. (LAUGHS) I can’t believe .. if it was the only bridge it would have been dealt with of course, but it is a very useful bridge. What we need is sort of acro’s underneath, if it’s thought necessary, and filled in, the fissure, with a temporary filling. And have bollards.
PAUL STAINTON: Well you’ve worked it out David. You’ve sorted it. Why can’t the County Council work it out?
DAVID BATEMAN: Well I had a word with MGWSB which are the contractors for the highways in Northampton. They’re a very good firm, and they do things. But the reason it’s taken so long is, according to them, they have to notify all sorts of historic and the various committees to do with heritage sites. So that slowed it down from a practical point of view. I think, after this long break, we will have less vehicles coming. Because along there there’s a big site for heavy rocks and also a concrete firm and so on, that have used the bridge. And I think they’re now used to not using it.
PAUL STAINTON: Well busineses are suffering aren’t they?
PAUL STAINTON: Barnwell Mill must be struggling as well, I would have thought, and the garden centre.
DAVID BATEMAN: It’s a very good garden centre, and it’s a great shame .. for them. I just think that bollards, it sounds like a swear word, but I think it should really be stopping anything bigger than a van or a car, anything bigger than that.
PAUL STAINTON: Just finally David, have you heard anything from the County Counci las to when this bridge might be finished and open again?
DAVID BATEMAN: Yes I’m afraid I have. It was even mooted that it couldn’t be started ’till next Summer.
DAVID BATEMAN: (ROARS) Yes. It’s gone snacking really. I preume MGWSB are a very good firm, but I just think somebody needs to have a rocket behind them to get going.
PAUL STAINTON: Thank you David. We’ll leave it there. David Bateman from East Northants District Council, saying the bridge in the south of Oundle might not be open until next Summer.


PAUL STAINTON: Earlier we heard how the closure of one of the main routes into Oundle is proving very frustrating for residents there, and expensive for local businesses. South Bridge that takes you out towards Barnwell has been closed to cars and lorries for three months now. The County Council still hasn’t said when it’ll be fixed. .. Well on the line now we’ve got Paul King from Oundle Town Council. Morning Paul.
PAUL KING: Morning.
PAUL STAINTON: And we’ve got Ray Price who works on the Structures Team for Northhants County Council, who are responsible for the bridge. Morning Ray.
RAY PRICE: Good morning.
PAUL STAINTON: First of all Ray, next Summer? Really?
RAY PRICE: That was something that was put to us by the Environment Agency, maybe because if we want to do any works to the bridge, put in scaffolding and the like, that they might not allow us to do that until next Summer. We are in discussion with the Environment Agency. We have meetings set up with them to try to expedite that. But that was something that was originally stated to us by as I say the Environment Agency.
PAUL STAINTON: Seems like a lot of talk Ray. Not a lot of action.
RAY PRICE: I can assure you there’s a lot of action going on here. We’ve had engineers working on it flat out since the original water main fracture which effectively caused the damage to the bridge, and caused us to feel it was beyond a state of repair that we could allow traffic to go on it.
PAUL STAINTON: So it’s been closed how long?
RAY PRICE: About two and a half months is my recollection. It was 29th March that it was actually the water main fracture occurred. Water was issuing out from all sorts of parts of the bridge.
PAUL STAINTON: And what work’s been done since it closed?
RAY PRICE: Well effectively we’ve been putting together for the County Council an options report, talking to contractors, preliminary discussions with the Environment Agency, more importantly the English Heritage, which people in Oundle will appreciate this is a scheduled ancient monument, so we have to go through a lot of procedures to get this bridge refurbished back up to the condition that it was originally in.
PAUL STAINTON: Ray, stay there if you will. Paul, what’s your take on all of that?
PAUL KING: I think the problem we’ve got is it’s started to become a normal thing for the bridge to be closed. It’s gone on and on for about twelve weeks now, and as a Council we’ve never really had a statement of what the issue is. That’s the thing that slightly perturbs us. And there are so many other things going on in the town in terms of development that it’s starting to go under the radar. I walked down there on Sunday, and all the signs look as if they’re going to be in situ for a long time. The frustration is that because we’re the local councillors, we’re getting it in the neck in the first instance. And it’s not satisfactory for me and my other councillors to simply say that it’s not really our responsibility.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. In brief Ray, just sum up the exact problem why you can’t start work. Is it to do with the fact that the bridge is so old?
RAY PRICE: That’s one of the reasons. We need to .. there is a funding issue that the County Council needs to resolve. It’s going to cost quite a lot of money to repair this bridge to take heavy goods vehicles again, as it did originally.
PAUL STAINTON: Why don’t you just ban them from the bridge?
RAY PRICE: Well that again takes time, and lots of signage and barriers and things need to be put in place. And I’m not sure that’s the right thing for a town like Oundle, to have ..
PAUL KING: Can I come in there?
PAUL STAINTON: Of course Paul.
PAUL KING: The problem is that traffic is now coming from Weldon and Corby , is now having to go through the centre of the town to get up to the A605, and up to Kettering in a different way. So there’s going to be a residual cost to the infrastructure of the town and the centre. And they’re coming through when we’ve got five schools all converging on the town centre at the same time. So to me, either way, someone’s going to have to pay.
RAY PRICE: Well I do appreciate that. They are illegal heavy goods vehicle movements, because you have an amenity weight restriction through the centre of Oundle. But notwithstanding that, we are working, I can assure you, we are working flat out to resolve this problem. It is a difficult situation, bearing in mind the nature of the location above a river. It’s a scheduled ancient monument, and all these issues have to be resolved before we can move forward.
PAUL KING: Can the Councty Council attend a Council meeting in July with three things? We need three things, as a Town Council. We want an actual position statement of what the problem is, what the context of the problem is. So we understand that it’s a monument, and that there are financial issues, but we need that to be explicit. And the third thing is at least a time line for when you’re going to build a time line. We can bring residents into that meeting, and they can hear it straight from the horses mouth.
RAY PRICE: I would have no problem attending a meeting such as that, and I’m sure my colleagues, highways officers from the County Council would be happy to attend as well.
PAUL STAINTON: Paul, thank you for that, and Ray Price who works on the Structures Team for Northants County Council. Paul; King from Oundle Town Council. A contentious issue about that bridge in Oundle. If you do live in the town, how’s it affecting you? We did hear from some residents earlier saying they were quite happy having the bridge closed, because they didn’t have any traffic near them. but a lot of businesses struggling. The garden centre struggling. Barnwell Mill not getting the traffic it normally gets.