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Whorlton Bridge near Barnard Castle closed over safety worries

image copyrightDurham County Council
image captionWhorlton Bridge opened in 1831 to carry horse-drawn traffic

A suspension bridge - said to be the oldest of its kind in the UK - has closed amid fears of a "catastrophic" collapse.

Whorlton Bridge, near Barnard Castle, can no longer be used by walkers or cyclists, having been out of bounds to motorists since August 2019.

Durham County Council said it could fail "catastrophically, without warning".

Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davidson said repairs must start immediately.

The bridge, which opened in 1831 and was designed to carry horse-drawn carts working at Durham's coalfields, is a Grade II listed structure and scheduled monument.

The council said it was the UK's oldest road suspension bridge. Its deck is supported by its original iron chains.

'Blocked from family'

Since 1985, a restriction had permitted only one vehicle to cross at a time.

However, motorists have followed a diversion since summer last year after engineers found a structural fault.

Further inspections identified similar failures across the whole of the bridge.

Alan Patrickson, the council's corporate director for neighbourhoods and climate change, said Historic England and the Environment Agency would be consulted before any work began.

"Given the nature and the historical importance of the bridge, careful consideration is going to have to be taken as to the scope of works required.

"It will also take careful planning and consultation with appropriate specialists."

Conservative MP Ms Davidson said she understood "the need for Whorlton Bridge's complete closure based on the increased safety risk" and requested repairs be carried out swiftly to allow it to reopen as soon as possible.

She said the closure to vehicles had already had a severe impact on local communities and warned "additional restrictions would undoubtedly make this worse" with some residents of Whorlton, Wycliffe and Thorpe "blocked off from family".

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Related Topics

  • Durham County Council
  • Barnard Castle
  • Dehenna Davison

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