A DALEHOUSE engineer has warned that one of the north-east’s most historic bridges is in serious danger unless a local authority dispute can be resolved.
The grade two listed Dalehouse Bridge, behind the Fox and Hounds Inn near Staithes, is at the centre of an ownership dispute between two local authorities who have been unable to agree who is responsible for its maintenance.
David Whitlock is managing director of a Cleveland engineering company and has been a Dalehouse resident for over fifty years.
He said: “The bridge was built in the same year that James Cook started his apprenticeship in Staithes, so he will have played on it as boy.
“It’s 266 years old and it predates any bridge crossing the Thames today.
“It’s a very, very important historic monument.”
The bridge lies on a boundary between Hinderwell and Easington, on the borders of Scarborough Borough Council and Redcar and Cleveland Council.
The bridge is also within the North Yorkshire Moors national park, but as they do not maintain bridges no responsibility is placed on their shoulders.
Owners of listed structures are required to repair and maintain them and can face criminal prosecution if they fail to do so.
Mr Whitlock, who has been battling for nine years to get the bridge the attention he feels it deserves, added: “The bridge is as built so it hasn’t been strengthened.
“It has survived massive floods but I have known this bridge for fifty years and I have seen the walls have bulged and sagged and bricks are falling out.
“There’s a section of wall where if you push it, it rocks back and forwards.
“Twenty years ago you could clearly read the inscriptions in the walls.
“If nothing is done with the bridge children will start pushing rocks off and the entire bridge point will be lost.”
Although impassable by car, the bridge is a highways structure, even showing up on modern road maps and sat nav’s, and as such should have been regularly inspected and maintained.
Linda Chilvers, from Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, said: “Currently there’s an investigation going on into the ownership of the bridge.
“Until that goes ahead there will be no repairs taking place.
“The bridge lies on quite a few boundaries and we can’t repair something unless we are sure who owns it.”
Mr Whitlock added: “When this was built it was the first sandstone bridge on the north east coast and it’s probably the oldest still standing.
“At the time it was built bridges were usually of timber construction and sandstone arches of this size were still very experimental.
“How long will the bridge last if noone looks after it?
“That’s a very good question.”