Locals 'delighted' with HRE's constructive approach to bridge plan

28/09/2023
Chris Ames

National Highways is working with local partners to facilitate and partly fund a planned active travel route in Somerset by a plan to open a route under a disused railway bridge.

The government-owned company, which manages the Historical Railways Estate (HRE), said Stump Cross Bridge near Shepton Mallet had fallen into disrepair, with its arches each partially filled by local landowners, while the location had become a dumping hot spot.

Since taking over the structure in 2013, National Highways has cleared up the site and undertaken works to the bridge to ensure safe load carrying, as well as installing a bat ‘hotel’ beside one of the bridge’s three spans.

The bridge (pictured) carries Ridge Road over the disused Cheddar Valley railway line, which was known as the Strawberry Line and closed in 1963, and plans are underway to open one span as a route for cyclists, walkers and people in wheelchairs and mobility scooters.

Cycling and walking charity Greenways and Cycleroutes has been working with Somerset Council to construct a number of missing sections along the planned 32-mile greenway and active travel route from Clevedon Pier to Shepton Mallet.

National Highways said priority is being given to completing the five-mile Wells and Shepton Mallet section, which will bypass heavily trafficked roads and hilly terrain and that safely crossing Ridge Road is central to this.

Hélène Rossiter, head of the HRE at National Highways, said: ‘We are really excited about Greenways and Cycleroutes’ aspirations for this site and are working closely with them to support their plans for another one of our structures to connect with the popular Strawberry Line.’

A spokesperson for Greenways and Cycleroutes said: ‘We are delighted to be working with National Highways to link the routes that we have negotiated either side of this busy road to create a memorable greenway and wheelchair-friendly route.”

The Strawberry Line Society said it was also ‘delighted’ by the HRE’s constructive stance as, Ridge Road has become a busy bypass of Shepton Mallet, and increasingly dangerous to cross.

National Highways said it will also work closely with Natural England and the local planning authority to ensure any future plans do not disrupt the environment, can be delivered safely, and will not disturb the bats living in the ‘hotel’.

A spokesperson told Highways that while there is not currently a detailed design or costing, different elements the project would be funded by different parties.

National Highways would fund elements such as removing the infill, excavation to create more headroom, and refurbishment or strengthening of the arch.

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