Coleridge Footbridge in Ottery St Mary is set to remain closed for the rest of this year after being badly damaged by a fallen tree.

The tree came down across the bridge on December 7 and it has been out of use ever since.

Devon County Council engineers have inspected the site and say the damage is so severe that the bridge needs to be completely removed and placed on the ground to enable repairs to be carried out. The tree is still lying across the bridge and it also needs to be removed.

But both operations will involve a large crane, and the ground conditions are currently not suitable for this kind of machinery.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Highway Management, said: “Public safety is paramount and while we appreciate Coleridge Footbridge is a popular and well used link it must remain closed at the moment.

"Unfortunately the integrity of the bridge structure has been compromised by this fallen tree. The inspections have raised concerns that without the correct support any attempt to remove the tree could cause more damage, possibly leading to further twisting of the deck. We also want to avoid parts of the tree getting washed downstream and impacting the river elsewhere. Our teams are working hard to find possible solutions but it may well take some time, so please bear with us.”

Councillor Jess Bailey, Devon County Councillor for Otter Valley, said: “I’m exceptionally concerned that this vital footbridge will be out of action for so long and the impact this is going to have on all residents, including students at the King's school. I am urging DCC to do everything within its powers to reinstate the bridge as soon as possible and I will be monitoring progress closely.”

The bridge is currently fenced off at both ends and members of the public are asked to avoid the area. Any accidental movement of the tree could lead to further damage to the bridge and ultimately failure of the structure.

Devon County Council engineers are working with the original bridge fabricator to explore the repair options. In the interim, a specialist arborist is advising the County Council on how best to remove the tree without causing further damage to the structure.