Latest on closure of Darley Abbey Toll bridge
Published: 26 May 2022
The recent closure of Darley Abbey Toll Bridge has understandably attracted a lot of attention and comment since the Council acted to close access to the structure from the public highway due to significant safety concerns.
Following discussions between an external third-party inspection team and the Council’s structural engineers, the decision was made to stop access to the bridge by all users as soon as possible
A close-up inspection was carried out by boat on Thursday 5 May, where large areas of loose concrete were identified and removed by hand. Pictures taken at the time illustrate decayed concrete and steel bars, many of which are corroded to one third of their original size, and in some cases corroded right through. They also show the underside of the bridge deck, with the steel bars exposed and in very poor condition. The inspection had to be stopped early due to concerns over the amount of loose material.
It’s important to stress the weakness and dangerous condition of the bridge and, although fencing has been erected, there have been reports of people attempting to climb onto the structure.
The level of deterioration discovered during the inspection is severe and the issues of ownership and responsibility, along with the technical and financial liabilities are complex. The bridge is not easy to repair and the costs are provisionally estimated to be over a million pounds.
The bridge provides access onto private land. Ownership of the bridge, and with that, responsibility for its maintenance, is a complex question. Although the bridge passed to the Crown Estate following the insolvency of its previous owner, the Crown Estate has disowned ownership of it, which by law it is able to do. The bridge therefore is technically ownerless.
The vague legal responsibility and ownership for many years has seen little or no maintenance work carried out, which has created the current problem for the community, business owners in the vibrant and successful mill complex, and for the council.
Councillor Steve Hassall, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Decarbonisation, and Strategic Planning & Transport said:
The decision to close access to the bridge had to made, due to the significant public safety risks associated with the deterioration discovered during the recent inspection. It’s highly unusual for the Council to take this type of action, particularly in relation to a bridge that is not owned by us. The Council was aware of the impact this would have on the community and businesses, but given the immediate concerns there was no option but to act.
The current priority for the Council is to work with all the interested parties to examine the possibilities for providing some access for pedestrians and cyclists to link Darley Village with the Mills site, and we will continue to work with local ward Councillors, Amanda Solloway MP and business owners on this. There will be an ongoing team effort to seek financial assistance for a temporary bridge as well as a permanent solution, which of course will need to be suitable within the World Heritage Site. We also continue to work with the Environment Agency as any temporary or permanent bridge will need to be able to withstand floods, and there are ongoing legal and technical issues that need to be resolved.
Amanda Solloway MP for Derby North added:
The closure of Darley Abbey bridge is causing much concern among businesses and residents and I am committed to do all I can to help find a solution.
Darley Abbey is a beautiful place and its saddening to see a part of it cut off from its community.
I have been liaising with relevant stakeholders including Derby City Council, Government Ministers and businesses in the Darley Abbey Mills complex and I am also reaching out to residents.
I will be continuing to have regular discussions and to help push for a solution as quickly and efficiently as possible.