Finchingfield bridge could remain closed for weeks after lorry crash

The bridge closure at Finchingfield

The bridge closure at Finchingfield - Credit: Archant

The bridge in Finchingfield could remain closed for as long as 42 days after a lorry collided with a funeral directors nearby on Tuesday morning (October 27).

The damage at G.W. Hardy and Son's funeral directors in Finchingfield

The damage at G.W. Hardy and Son's funeral directors in Finchingfield - Credit: Archant

The vehicle was driving west on the B1053 over the bridge just after 10am when it struck G.W. Hardy and Son’s, causing considerable damage to the side of the building.

Essex police are investigating the incident after the driver of the lorry failed to stop at the scene.

Officers closed the bridge for safety reasons at around 10.30am on Tuesday, but Essex County Council later issued a public notice ordering a temporary emergency closure to begin on October 27, which will be in place for 21 days.

The notice states that the work could also be extended by an additional 21 days under the Road traffic Regulation Act 1984, should it be necessary.

The damage at G.W. Hardy and Son's funeral directors in Finchingfield

The damage at G.W. Hardy and Son's funeral directors in Finchingfield - Credit: Archant

The closure means a lengthy diversion of around 13 miles for villagers, and Essex County Council are set to close the bridge for four months in July 2016 for structural repair work. Residents are unhappy and say the plans will cut the village in half, risk lives and threaten businesses.

Paul Brewer, 67, funeral arranger at G.W. Hardy and Sons, was in the funeral directors when the building was struck.

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He said: “We open at 10am, so I hadn’t been in long when I heard the bang. I thought they had hit the bridge, which has happened before. It wasn’t until I went outside that I saw the damage to the building. I just assumed the driver would stop and was surprised when they just drove off.

“We will be staying open, and something like this is not enough to put us out of business.”

Mr Brewer said that next year’s closure would be disruptive for the firm.

“It will be problematic, particularly for us coming from the church to the other side of the village. We will just have to find a way to do the best we can in the circumstances.”

The diversion suggested by the council will see residents have to travel 13 miles up to Hempstead via Great Sampford to reach the other side of the village by car - a route that will take around half an hour without traffic - and cause major congestion on the country lanes.

Jane Welsh, from Finchingfield Post Office, said this temporary closure has given villagers a glimpse of what life will be like without the bridge next year.

She said: “It has already had a huge impact. The post office is dead and I would say business is about 50 per cent down on what it would normally be for the day. So if this is an indication of what it will be like, then imagine what a four month closure could do for business.

“With this incident, people in the village have been able to see the true extent of what a closure looks like, with pensioners stranded because the buses can’t get to them, and chaos on the single-track roads because of people taking unoffical diversions.

“The diversions take around 30 to 40 minutes and just looking at the Facebook page this morning, I can see there have been lots of complaints. I contacted Essex Highways but have had nothing back as to how long this temporary closure will last for.”

A spokesman for Essex Highways said he was unable to give details of the duration of the work until the damage had been properly assessed by engineers.

A public meeting to discuss next year’s closure will take place on Tuesday, November 17 at 6.30pm at Finchingfield Village Hall, with the opportunity for villagers to raise concerns about the proposed diversion.