A WHITBY county councillor has called for a consultation of residents to decide the future of Whitby’s Swing Bridge.
Coun Joe Plant asked the question of what should be done with the bridge at a full meeting of North Yorkshire County Council on Wednesday (20 July).
He said: “We all know what impact the problems with the bridge had last year, especially for business and residents on the East side.
“There is also the potential for Whitby to become a service port for the wind farm industry for many, many years.
“At the end of the day we should do a consultation with the people of Whitby.
“It will take at least a year but we need to look into the long term and see what the people of Whitby want.”
Coun Plant said that he would like to see the opinions of Whitby residents presented to the authorities, but he already knows what his own preference would be.
“I would rather have the Swing Bridge remain,” he said, “It could be 50 years, it could be 20 years, but we all know the bridge will not last forever and surely we don’t want to wait for the bridge to come to an end and then decide how we go about replacing it.
“We need a long-term strategy in place to replace Whitby Swing Bridge as I am thinking of future generations of the town.”
County coun Gareth Dadd, executive member for highways and planning services, responded to coun Plant’s question by saying: “The Whitby Swing Bridge is 101 years old.
“Today we design bridges to have a 120-year design life so it could be anticipated that the bridge should be coming up to the time when it should be replaced.
“The bridge has been reconditioned several times in the past 20 years and the recent addition of the 7.5 tonne weight limit will extend the life of the bridge.
“Our best estimate is that the bridge will be working 50 years from now, providing the planned maintenance is carried out.
“To replace the bridge in the current location would cost about £10million plus the cost of the major disruption to the town while the bridge works take place because the current bridge occupies the optimum location for the bridge and the operation of the harbour.
“To build another bridge off the line of the current bridge would require the demolition of some of Whitby’s iconic buildings.
“The existing bridge is fit for purpose and we will endeavour to lessen the number of times it breaks down.
“It should be remembered that a new mechanical bridge could also be prone to breakdowns while the system bugs are found and repaired.
“New mechanical bridges do not work perfectly from handover and can have their own challenging problems to be overcome.
“To conclude, the bridge has residual life and is fit for purpose.
“For carbon, sustainability, heritage and the effect that the project would have on the economy of Whitby it is not the time to consider the replacement of this bridge.”