Essex village outraged as bridge closure and 28-mile diversion confirmed

Bridge campaigners Peter and Mary Curry and Jane Welsh with Braintree MP James Cleverly,

Bridge campaigners Peter and Mary Curry and Jane Welsh with Braintree MP James Cleverly, - Credit: Archant

Villagers in Finchingfield say they are “outraged, shocked and devastated” at the news that a ancient bridge in the village, used last year for the Tour de France, is to be closed leaving them facing a 28-mile diversion.

Businesses say that the prospect of four months with traffic diverted away from the village could put them out of business, as well as inconveniencing people who want to go to the doctor or to school.

They say drivers trying to use narrow country lanes instead of the long diversion could be deadly.

On Friday, villagers and members of the parish council held a protest meeting with their MP, James Cleverly who said he would support them in their plea for a temporary bridge.

But yesterday (Wednesday), the Highways Department at Essex County Council said despite their protestations, the diversion would go ahead.

Mary Curry, from Finchingfield Antiques said: “We have been ignored. No one has consulted us. It’s an outrage. We are devastated.

“We will have to hold a meeting to decide what we are going to do next. We know the bridge has to be repaired but why do our lives have to be disrupted for months?”

Most Read

Alex Robinson and Jane Welsh from Finchingfield Post Office and Stores in Bardfield Road, which claims over 1,000 customers a week, told the Broadcast: “This would be disastrous for the life of our village.

“As a community we will be effectively cut in two and all through traffic will simply stop.”

Alex added: “Closure of the bridge would mean over half our customers, including all people from Cornish Hall End, and all our passing trade, would simply cease.

“Even our deliveries would potentially be suspended or incur huge surcharges. Rural businesses are marginal at best, and as a business, we simply could not survive this for months on end.

“When the road outside our Post Office was resurfaced earlier this year, we saw a 70 per cent drop in custom. That was only for a week.”

Jane said: “Finchingfield has survived through the centuries because it is where the river is crossed. Remove that crossing and the heart of the village will be destroyed.”

Councillor Eddie Johnson, cabinet member for highways maintenance and small scheme delivery, said: “Structural surveys have clearly shown that Finchingfield Bridge needs remedial works to bring it up to optimum standard for the traffic it carries.”

“A signed diversion will direct drivers onto sections of the B1057, B1256 and B1053.”

Cllr Johnson added: “In order to protect and preserve Finchingfield’s picturesque setting, especially the village green, we have chosen to carry out the bridge repair work with a road closure and signed diversion.

“A temporary bridge and approach roads were considered, but the extra works needed would severely disfigure the green and be more expensive and slower to complete.

“Inevitably, projects of this kind will lead to disruption and longer journey times while the closure and diversions are in place, but it’s very necessary work and will serve to maintain the bridge to the highest possible standard.”

Mr Cleverly last week said he would write to ECC to say he was in favour of a secondary bridge.

“If the bridge were closed and a lengthy diversion put in place, I can see that if that happened for a prolonged period of time, it would be catastrophic for the village,” Mr Cleverly said.