Benjiman L. Angwin
Talk of bridges has dominated the political discourse in Wales over the past few years.
As our politics has become increasingly polarised between the left and right, we have spoken of bridges that would allow us to compromise with each other.
And then there’s the Second Severn Crossing – recently renamed the Prince of Wales Bridge.
Although a physical bridge this has become a symbol of exactly how not to build bridges – despite only 17% of people in Wales supporting the renaming, Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns rammed it through anyway, at a cost of £37,000 to the taxpayer.
The renaming did, however, help to build bridges within the national movement. I co-organised a protest with Liberal Democrat Matt Lody which was then supported by independent AM Neil McEvoy and groups of YesCymru.
The petition against the re-naming was one of the most successful in the history of Welsh politics, collecting 38,000 signatures.
The lesson here is clear – bridges can unite people, but they can also be controversial and if handled incorrectly can be divisive.
Which is why plans to build a third bridge over the Menai Strait between Arfon and Anglesey need to be approached with caution.
There has been talk of a 3rd bridge over the Menai for years. The Labour-run Welsh Government is currently discussing it, at a cost of £135 million to Welsh taxpayers.
While anyone who has been stuck in traffic during rush hour, or unable to cross because of strong winds will know, another bridge fit for the 21st century is certainly needed.
The plan has however attracted opposition from the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales, who are understandably concerned for the Menai’s natural beauty.
And they have a point, as the Menai Strait is one of the most beautiful places on earth and the last thing we need is a concrete eyesore that could damage it.
If the bridge is going to go ahead anyway then it should be built in the spirit of compromise and not rammed through by the state.
An idea has been put forward which is just such a compromise between the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales and the big-State ideas of the Welsh Labour Party.
This idea is called Pont Bendigeidfran, and it was suggested by a civil engineer named Benji Poulton.
Here is a video on his design showing its feasibility and what it could do for the area.
This bridge would be functional, but would also enhance the Menai’s beauty and have a cultural significance that would appeal to the people of Anglesey and Arfon.
Benji Poulton’s design in ingenious, structurally sound and aesthetically beautiful. ‘A fo ben bid bont,’ says the Mabinogi, and here Bendigeidfran is literally holding up the bridge as he did for his men in legend. It is a fantastic concept and deserves our attention.
It would also bring visitors to the area in the same way as famous bridges and landmarks across the world.
I’m sure there will be some who lack ambition that will look at this idea and laugh. But these people who also have dismissed the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower and the Sagrada Familia. Sometimes you need to possess a little vision.
Historians may look back upon the national injustice of the ‘Prince of Wales Bridge’ as the act which finally made the aspiration for Welsh independence mainstream.
But at a time when we’re struggling to bridge the political divide within Wales with our own national movement, Pont Bendigeidfran would symbolise a Wales where we value the opinions of everyone, even when they’re in opposition to our own.
You can sign a petition to support Pont Bendigeidfran here.
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