'We are now looking at further options within the available budgets to try to keep it open' the 17 words that spell hope March town centre footbridge will stay open

PUBLISHED: 22:39 08 August 2015 | UPDATED: 22:40 08 August 2015

footbridge next to town bridge. and Acre road alley. Picture: Steve Williams.

footbridge next to town bridge. and Acre road alley. Picture: Steve Williams.

Archant

Fenland Council may have found the cash to keep open the footbridge linking High Street, March, with the library.

footbridge next to town bridge. and Acre road alley. Picture: Steve Williams.footbridge next to town bridge. and Acre road alley. Picture: Steve Williams.

The council set itself a deadline of July 31 to resolve the issue – mainly about who should pay £140,000 for repairs- but now believes it can find the cash to pay for it.

A council spokesman said: “We are now looking at further options within the available budgets to try to keep it open.”

The news will be both welcome – and a surprise- to those who had expected contact from the council following imposition of the deadline.

In June council leader John Clark told his cabinet that the council originally committed £33,000 from the capital programme towards the footbridge works and the private owner – Snowmountain- had offered £25,000.

Cllr Clark said there remained a shortfall of £82,192 to repair the bridge of which he said £72,900 was for FDC and £67,292 for Snowmountain; the gap was therefore £39,900 for FDC and £42,292 for the adjacent owner.

However Snowmountain has insisted throughout – and produced legal evidence to support its contention- that the bulk of responsibility lay with the council.

The footbridge was built in 1978, altered in the 1980s, but no “significant improvements” have been made since, said Cllr Clark.

He said two year ago there were concerns raised about the condition of the bridge when it was temporarily closed for repairs.

Later estimates for more permanent repairs saw the costs rocket from £55,000 to £140,000 and he said Snowmountain had capped their offer at £25,000 since alternative access arrangements for property they own could be made if the bridge closed.

Mr Clark said Snowmountain had told him the estimated costs were “excessive” but FDC maintained that if a lower specification for materials was used it could lead to difficulties.

He said FDC had been in talks with March Town Council and Cambridgeshire County Council “to explore the possibility of additional external funding”.

Cllr Clark told cabinet that a structural engineer has advised that a further structural survey inspection will be necessary this month.

Minutes of the cabinet meeting say that “should the agreements not be forthcoming by the end of July 2015 or the costs to FDC are prohibitive a further report will be brought back to Cabinet to close the footbridge”.

Cabinet also agreed to increase its contribution to £72,900 at this stage “but defer the decision to close the footbridge to enable further negotiations with the adjacent owner along with key stakeholders”.

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