Family left without access to their own farm land after bridge closure
Emily Gill, local democracy reporter
A family in Monmouthshire have been left without access to their own farm land, because of an emergency bridge closure in Tintern.
Wireworks Bridge in Tintern was issued with an emergency road closure on August 18 for up to 18 months because the bridge wasn’t considered safe for motor vehicles and warning signs were ignored or removed.
Concrete bollards were installed to stop vehicles trying to use the access, but this has left the Simpson family without access to their farm.
Caroline Simpson, whose parents own land that is now without access, said they’d been “completely cut off”.
She said: “The bridge has got so much history attached to it and it’s our only access to our land. Now we are unable to get to our land – we’re cut off.
“The land needs to be maintained and my dad needs to get agricultural vehicles across to service the land.”
Ms Simpson acknowledged that there is an alternative access, but it is “impassable” and “not a viable option”.
This means the only vehicle access that is safe has been taken away.
Ms Simpson said: “Our fear is that they’re not going to reopen it. You can’t take someone’s driveway away. We all go there daily.”
Ms Simpson had planned on taking her kids on holiday next week but the trailer with everything she needs is on the farmland so she’s had to cancel it.
Ms Simpson’s mother, Mary Simpson, said the closure has a “tremendous impact on the family. We have to get access to our land we go there every day. We have boats on the river.
“We’ve always been involved in river safety and we can’t help out if we can’t access the land. It’s just cut us off completely.”
While Monmouthshire and Gloucestershire councils have said that the closure is necessary, the family disagrees.
They commissioned an independent survey of the bridge, which has been seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
The survey says: “My initial reaction was one of surprise, having used the bridge regularly and maintained an interest in the structural condition over the previous nine years.
“Maintenance of the structure had clearly been neglected, but I had not witnessed a sudden deterioration that I felt would lead to an emergency closure.
“With your assistance, I was given the opportunity to inspect the bridge soffit from the river on a high tide, and I was also unable to identify any significant changes in condition from below.”
It goes on to say: “There may be a sound case for vehicle closure, but this has not been disclosed to date.”
‘Cut us off’
Ms Simpson has started an online petition, which has received more than 650 signatures, calling for Wireworks Bridge to reopen and protested on the bridge with her children last Wednesday – the day she was told the bollards would be installed.
The petition says: “My parents bought Ferry Farm in Tintern with a right of way to access it over Tintern Bridge. This is our only passable access and it has now been taken away from us by Gloucestershire and Monmouthshire County Councils.
“They have cut us off from our property and land over the river Wye and bridge, by placing barrier bollards either end of the old bridge making it impossible to access our land by car.
“Severn Area Rescue Association (SARA) also need access across it as they have permission to use our river landing if needed whilst exercising and for emergencies.
“We have barely been consulted with regards to the councils’ plans, equipment and farm machinery are now inaccessible to service our land.”
Kath Haworth, head of highways for Gloucestershire County Council said: “We fully appreciate the inconvenience caused to residents and businesses who are impacted by the closure of this bridge to vehicles and apologise for the disturbance.
“However, this closure is necessary because of the deterioration in the condition of the bridge which has several defects, cracking and widespread corrosion and we have a duty to ensure users of the bridge are safe.
“At the moment the bridge has been closed to vehicles so the bridge is only to be used by pedestrians and cyclists.
“Joint work with Monmouthshire County Council is planned to repair the bridge in Autumn 2022.
“Meanwhile, we will work with those who are particularly struggling with the impact of the closure to see what more we can do to support them.”
A spokesperson for Monmouthshire council said: “We share responsibility for managing the various cross border bridges and Gloucestershire oversees this one.
“The structure of the bridge has been assessed and it cannot safely support vehicles. Warning signs have been ignored or removed, so to ensure the safety of the public and bridge users, an emergency order has been put in place closing the bridge to vehicular traffic.
“I’m very concerned to hear a car has repeatedly rammed the bollard to knock it down.
“Gloucestershire County Council is seeking to work with the affected property occupiers (on the English side).”
The costs of the repairs will be shared equally between the two councils.
The emergency road closure is not expected to last longer than 18 months, with work on the bridge scheduled for Autumn 2022.
To view the petition visit here.