“THE safest way to cross a road is a bridge”. That was the message to Redditch Borough Council at a packed meeting of Studley Parish Council as councillors at parish, district and county level joined with campaigners in the battle to save the old railway bridge over Green Lane between Redditch and Studley.
The bridge is now part of a green traffic-free route for walkers and cyclists.
But cash-strapped Redditch Borough Council, which has responsibility for the bridge even though it sits in Studley parish in Warwickshire, claims it is unsafe and uneconomical to repair.
It wants to demolish it, straighten the lane, build two new houses by the site and re-route the path putting pedestrians and cyclists into direct conflict with road traffic.
The meeting heard that Redditch had not only failed to notify nearby residents of its plans, but also Studley Parish Council, Stratford District Council and Warwickshire County Council.
“I spoke to the leader of Redditch Borough Council (Coun Matt Dormer) last week and he apologised and was willing to come down here and answer questions but unfortunately his officers said that was not a good idea,” Coun Peter Hencher-Serafin (Lib Dem, Studley & Mappleborough Green) told the meeting.
He added: “I strongly support the retention of this bridge. I have been in the building trade all my life. I have inspected it and I would say it needs minimal repairs.
“That bridge will be there for another 100 years.”Parish Coun Paul Beaman felt there was an ulterior motive behind plans to demolish the bridge and straighten the road.
“I firmly believe one of the reasons they want to get rid of this bridge is for the Redditch Eastern Gateway as this would be an ideal route, once the bridge is gone, a straight through road. We need to get to the bottom of this,” he said.
Coun Neil Edden (Studley & Sambourne) said: “The residents of Sambourne are equally supportive of our cause.”
Coun Brian Dixon added: “It’s part of our heritage and needs to be kept.”
Earlier, the meeting had heard from campaigners Steve Tominski and Simon Kirkland who both spoke passionately for saving the bridge.
“Why, if this bridge is unsafe, has Green Lane not been closed to traffic already?” asked Mr Tominski. “The bridge does need maintenance but it is not going to fall down anytime soon.”
Mr Kirkland added: “We believe that there is a better, safe alternative to these plans that don’t impact an area of historical and natural beauty for Studley and Redditch and keeps this essential bridge for our children, elderly, and disabled to use and remain safe.
“It’s worth remembering that the safest means to cross a road…is a bridge.”
Members agreed to invite a representative from Redditch council to explain their actions and appealed to campaigners to keep an eye out for any planning applications for the land.