THE INSPECTION which led to the closure of the footbridge to Whitby’s West Pier extension has revealed a long standing history of corrosion and decay.
Scarborough Borough Council’s report, compiled the day after the inspection a fortnight ago talks of “corrosion”, “failure” and “dangerous”.
The inspector examined the primary beams which are positioned at either side of the bridge and secondary beams which sit between them and support the wooden decking which pedestrians walk on.
Findings suggest the beams have not been painted or treated for some considerable time and given the exposure to airborne seasalt this has accelerated corrosion.
The report states: “The primary and secondary beams may once have been painted but there is now no evidence of a painted surface to any of the beams or associated fixings.
“This has resulted in significant corrosion leading to delamination which can be expected to result in a significant reduction in functionality.”
The primary beams which span 11.7 metres and 13 metres are undersized for the load it is carrying according to current British standards.
Furthermore supporting steel work appears to be 20% corroded and associated fixings are “exhibiting signs of extensive corrosion greater than 50% of their net cross section which could lead to failure of the beams.”
The balustrade posts and railings are painted but spot chips and cracks in the finishing coat were noted along with corrosion staining.
But the metalwork which fixed the posts and railings to the bridge are severely corroded.
The report says: “While the balustrade is overall in what can be considered in fair condition, the connection to the primary beam is near to failure and is considered dangerous.”
The report’s suggested future options have done nothing to stop rumours circulating town that the bridge is to be demolished and access to the extension being permanently cut off.
Three possible ways forward include: bridge removal and abandonment of access, replacement of the footbridge in its entirety or another more detailed inspection and refurbishment which would include removing the bridge to allow for the works.
But the report says this could be more costly than replacement.
Coun Joe Plant, who represents the West Cliff ward, said the first he heard of any issues with the extension and the footbridge was when he learned it had been closed along with everyone else and as far as he was concerned demolition or permanent closure “was not an option”.
He told the Gazette: “I have asked the question and in my view we should be looking at replacing the east and the west from the same funding pot.
“I have also asked for the maintenance regime. If this has not been done, why not? I know money is tight at the moment for a lot of things but at the end of the day if you maintain things it will save you money in the long run.”
Brian Bennett, SBC’s head of tourism and culture has said officers are looking at the possibility of re-opening the bridge to limited foot traffic pending a further inspection that requires scaffolding being put up.
This had to be postponed last week due to high winds but Mr Bennett added SBC had been in touch with English Heritage and a bridge manufacturer about a replacement.
If this goes ahead it is likely it will be manufactured off site, then delivered and installed.