Controversial work to weld bridge shut cancelled after legal row

Carrow Bridge

Work to weld Carrow Bridge shut has been put on hold - Credit: Denise Bradley

The controversial welding shut of a Norwich bridge has been put on hold, following accusations it would have broken a 102-year-old law enshrining the right for tall boats to visit the city.

Norfolk County Council had intended to spend £150,000 this summer to fix Carrow Bridge, which can lift to allow vessels to pass on the River Wensum beneath it, into place.

But that triggered a row between County Hall and the Broads Authority.

The dispute came about after the council's Conservative cabinet agreed that work could be done this summer to fix the bridge into place for a temporary period of five years.

The council's thinking was that welding it in place would save on maintenance costs because deck panels would not come loose so often due to traffic.

The council had considered spending more than £2m for a repair scheme to allow the bridge to keep lifting, which would have shut the bridge to traffic for three months, but decided against that.

But Section 61 of the Norwich Corporation Act 1920 states the bridge must be able to open to allow vessels to pass to access the port of Norwich.

And the Broads Authority, which would have had to grant the council a licence for the work, had said it would be "totally unacceptable" to weld the bridge shut.

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John Packman, chief executive of the Broads Authority, said last March: "The fact that there have been a very limited number of times when the bridge has been lifted for boats in recent years does not reflect the demand for larger boats to access the port of Norwich."

Chief Executive of the Broads Authority, John Packman

John Packman, Broads Authority chief executive - Credit: ©Archant Photographic 2009

Discussions between the county council and the Broads Authority have continued since - and the work due to happen this summer has been cancelled.

A county council spokesman said: "The proposed works will not now go ahead this summer but routine maintenance repair works to the bridge deck surfacing will likely be required in the autumn.

"These will be similar in nature to those carried out in previous years.

"Norfolk County Council’s discussions with the Broads Authority are ongoing."

History of Carrow Bridge

The current Carrow Bridge was opened in 1923 by Edward, then the Prince of Wales.

King Edward VIII

Carrow Bridge was opened by King Edward VIII. - Credit: PA

His abdication as king 13 years later sparked a constitutional crisis.

The Regal Lady goes under Carrow Bridge

The Regal Lady goes under Carrow Bridge in 1983 - Credit: Archant

Construction on the bridge had begun in 1920, through the unemployed relief work scheme, which was set up in the aftermath of the First World War.

The current bridge replaced one which was a few hundred feet further downstream, which linked Carrow Hill to the north-eastern end of Carrow Road.

Norwich riverside at Carrow looking downstream on the Wensum.

The old Carrow Bridge - Credit: Archant

That iron bascule bridge had been built in 1833, replacing one - probably made of wood - which had been constructed in 1810.