Can legal document save a March footbridge from closure? Property company says it has the proof that Fenland Council must take responsibility for it

March river bridge footpath. Picture: Steve Williams.

March river bridge footpath. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

A March property company has told Fenland District Council it must stick to a legal conveyance signed in 1979 land to maintain a town centre foot bridge.

John Skoulding of Snowmountain Enterprises has a conveyance relating to the land associated with the footbridge which links High Street to West End Park.

He says part of the agreement was for the council to build a boundary wall and “forever after to maintain such boundary wall”.

The future of the footbridge is threatened because of an estimated £140,000 repair bill, which Fenland’s cabinet were set to discuss at yesterday’s (Thursday) meeting.

Mr Skoulding, whose firm is more than ready to spend £25,000 to carry out repairs to its part of the footbridge, said: “Our solicitor is going to write to Fenland District Council reminding them of their responsibility under the terms of the 1979 licence.”

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Snowmountain cannot carry out its repair work on the part they own unless the council repairs the rest of it.

Council estimates have rocketed from £55,000 to £140,000 in two years and the council wants Snowmountain to pay £67,292 towards the cost, which it says relates to their portion of the link-way area.

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But Mr Skoulding insists his company’s share of the bridge can easily be completed within £25,000.

He said: “I don’t know where they have got their figures from, but I know we can do our repairs for less than £25,000. But we can’t do anything until the council makes a decision.”

He added: “Fenland council sent a letter splitting ownership of the bridge 60/40, which has not been agreed, and just because they sent a letter doesn’t make it true.”

Two years ago Fenland Council put aside £33,000 towards the £55,000 estimated repair bill with Snowmountain set to the pay the rest.

Trevor Watson’s, the council’s head of assets and projects, provided options to cabinet.

He suggests the council could contribute £72,900, accept £25,000 from Snowmountain and to then seek the remainder from March Town Council and Cambridgeshire County Council to cover the outstanding £42,292.

The other option is to close the bridge and spend £20,000 upgrading the alternative accesses via Acre Road and the passage between 7 and 9 High Street, which would include new lighting and signs.

He says this is not a “do nothing” option as the bridge is in such a dangerous state.

March Town and Cambridgeshire County Councils would have three months to decide to contribute if cabinet agreed the first option. Work would start in spring 2016.

However, the bridge remaining open beyond August depends on a structural engineer’s inspection.

If option two is accepted the bridge will be sealed off with timber hoardings “painted to fit sympathetically into the local environment”.

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