MP backs Sidmouth walkway scheme

Sidmouth walkway group enlists MP’s help over bridge height restrictions

BACKING for a new-look walkway to link Manor Road car park with Sidmouth’s Connaught Gardens, comes this week from East Devon MP Hugo Swire, who is seeking support from local MEP Giles Chichester.

Stalwart bridge campaigners, Freddy Wedderburn and Brian Black, met with Hugo at his Friday surgery at Sidmouth Conservative Club to enlist his help and support in putting forward a scheme for a simple bridge that would fit in with the surroundings and go straight across the road.

To do this, the bridge must be lower than the EU’s 18’6” minimum, designed to accommodate juggernauts on major roads.

The original bridge design, turned down by East Devon District Council, needed ramps for pedestrians because it conformed to this height restriction.

Now the Millennium Walkway Group is contesting the regulation with Mr Swire’s help.

The MP said: “At the meeting with Freddy and Mr Black, I reiterated my support of the idea. “Originally I was sceptical about the bridge.”

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He changed his mind when he met them on site and saw, first hand, the problems for families and the disabled in crossing Peak Hill Road safely.

“They have come up with a really good design that would fit in well with the surroundings and overcome any problems of safety in crossing the road,” he said, adding it would allow disabled access to Connaught Gardens and be good for tourists and residents.

“The only stumbling block is the high clearance EU regulations about bridges. I have written to MEP Giles Chichester saying if there is some way round it, given the fact that Peak Hill is unlikely to be infested with EU sized juggernauts.”

He said it seemed ridiculous the bridge had to have the same clearance as expected on major trunk roads.

“I hope we will be able to find out how we can progress it and a way round it and lower the height of the bridge and hopefully the group will then get the support of the relevant authorities, including the town council.”

Freddy, chairman of the walkway group, said: “Hugo was adamant the whole thing is total nonsense.

“This is a meandering country lane, yet Europe says we have to have an 18’ 6” high bridge. We have pictures of dozens of bridges lower than that, some at just 16-foot high.

“The road from Peak Hill through to Otterton is virtually impassable. We want a relaxation of requirements that this height will not apply to this area.

“Once we have got that we can go to the bridge specialists…and will then apply for planning permission.”