Walsall Council’s planning committee has granted permission for a new bridge to be built alongside York’s Bridge on Norton Road.
The authority said a new bridge was needed because the condition of the existing one, which dates back to the mid-1800s, is deteriorating and unsafe for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.
They said it wasn’t fit for purpose as it could only take a maximum weight of seven-and-a-half tons instead of the required 44 tons and is in such a poor state that it could end up being closed to traffic if action to remedy it wasn’t taken.
But some residents raised concerns that a new bridge, which would sit alongside the existing one with traffic realigned to use it, would result in more danger from speeding motorists and increased heavy goods vehicles.
They also said the new bridge would cause major disruption, particularly for those living closest to it.
More than 1,050 residents took part in the consultation exercise on the issue and committee members were told around 90 per cent were in favour of it.
Ward councillor Garry Perry said the idea of a new bridge was first mooted in 1988 and discussions were held again in 1995.
Planning permission was granted in 2014 but the scheme was scuppered by the planning inspectorate who ruled the loss of land on Pelsall Common to make way for the development was too great and the council’s offer to compensate by creating open space elsewhere was insufficient.
Impact on homes
The current application would see far more open space created to replace the area lost as well as Moat Farm Pool being incorporated as common land.
But Robert Vercesi, chairman of Pelsall Civic Heritage Trust, objected to the proposal because of the impact it would have on homes – including his – nearby.
He said: "There are at least four specialist companies that repair and strengthen old Victorian brick arch bridges in such a way to allow free uninterrupted traffic movement during the process with no alteration to the profile of the bridge.
"Should these proposals be adopted there would be no realignment of Norton Road, safety for vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians, no loss of common land, substantial savings to the public purse, less noise pollution to local residents."
Dave Dowers, agent for Walsall Council, said upgrading York’s Bridge has been considered but was not viable and would result in an 18-month closure.
He added the existing route was in poor condition with the potential for accidents between vehicles.
He said: "The existing parapet is sub-standard and has been struck by vehicles, most recently in January where a car nearly entered the canal.
"Although not fatal there is a high safety issue with the potential for future accidents on this route."
Councillor Perry voted against the proposal but urged members to impose a raft of conditions to safeguard any potential disruption to residents.
These include the installation of an ANPR camera, consultation with residents on creating ‘no through routes’ on nearby roads to stop rat-running and stopping HGVs going through the village.
There is also a commitment to revisit the barrier treatment once the new bridge is complete to ensure noise mitigation measures are working.
He said: "We couldn’t ask committee to do anymore except not approve it, as distasteful to some this bridge will be.
"We’re talking about a planning decision that has taken 30 plus years to come to fruition."