Height wrangle could leave walkway project ‘stone cold dead’

A first concept image of how the Connaught Walkway could look

A first concept image of how the Connaught Walkway could look - Credit: Archant

A DUO campaigning for a footbridge over Peak Hill Road fear the long-awaited project could be left ‘stone cold dead’ by a dispute over its height.

Sidmouth residents Freddy Wedderburn and Brian Black hope to get the green light to build a bridge c

Sidmouth residents Freddy Wedderburn and Brian Black hope to get the green light to build a bridge connecting Manor Road car park to Connaught Gardens. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 7699-13-13AW - Credit: Archant

Freddy Wedderburn and Brian Black, who have championed the bid for a decade, have been told by the county council it will not sanction the walkway – even if they net planning permission.

The pair are stuck in a stalemate with highways chiefs who insist the mooted link must clear the road by 18ft 8in – the same minimum height as structures spanning across motorways.

Brian and Freddy say the bridge would be safe at nearly 15ft – and that making it any higher would nearly treble the cost to £350,000.

They think the project can be completed for £125,000, and the total is achievable.

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Members of the public have backed the project by donating cash - which Brian says will be handed back if the initiative ultimately fails.

“We’re nowhere near an application [planning] until we get the bridge height down,” said Brian.

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“We wouldn’t want to waste £300,000 on a hideous looking bridge with ramps at 18ft 8in.

“Without an agreement I think we’re stone cold dead. Even if we get planning they won’t sanction it.”

Brian and Freddy say the scheme would benefit and improve the safety of scores of pedestrians who walk from the Manor Road car park to Connaught Gardens.

Brian said the biggest vehicle likely to use Peak Hill Road is a removals van – and Potburys’ tallest vehicle is 12ft 10in. He added that diversions for large vehicles could also be put in place.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, county council cabinet member for highways and transportation, told the Herald: “We have consistently said that we would not accept a substandard height clearance for a new bridge over our highway network. National Standards require 5.7 metres of clearance for footbridges and therefore Devon County Council (DCC) would raise an objection to any planning application on this basis. Footbridges, by their nature, are vulnerable to vehicular impact and the risk and liability of an accidental collision with an under-height bridge would be significant particularly if people were using it at the time of impact.

“I have spoken to Mr Wedderburn and have looked at more suitable alternatives which included a zebra crossing, narrowing of the road with priority system and a section of footway with disabled access to Connaught Gardens.”

Freddy said he and Brian were dedicated to ‘pressing ahead’ with the project and added: “They [DCC] want it [Peak Hill Road] treated as if it is a motorway there. It’s not even a Class A road – it is a meandering country lane.”

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