CAMPAIGNERS behind a proposed new 20-mile greenway between Hereford and Hay-on-Wye have welcomed the decision not to infill a former railway bridge which is more than 100 years old.
Herefordshire Council refused to grant planning permission for the Historical Railways Estate (HRE) to infill Gough Bridge in Kinnersley, off the A4112 between Leominster and Hay-on-Wye.
The plans to infill the bridge, which is used by Ailey Lane traffic to cross the old Hereford, Hay and Brecon railway line, were rejected by planners as they “failed to protect and conserve the non-designated heritage asset”.
There also wasn’t enough information in the plans to be certain there wouldn’t be an adverse impact on the River Wye Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Sites of Special Scientific Interests (SSSI).
A design and access statement submitted with the plans said infilling was the preferred option as it offered “value for money” with reduced future maintenance costs and once the works are complete the structure will be unrestricted for all traffic.
It said: “Furthermore, infilling the structure will prevent future deterioration of the structure and remove the risk of structural collapse from overloading. Structural infilling will provide a cost effective and historically proven solution to the long-term support of the structure and road above.”
A second application for Hurstley Bridge, near Kinnersley, was also refused.
According to The HRE Group, an alliance of engineers, cycling campaigners and greenway developers, said the stay of execution for the bridge meant its dream of a Hereford to Hay-on-Wye greenway was not diminished.
Promoters said the 20-mile link would stimulate more than 200 local businesses through tourism, deliver safety benefits and establish new wildlife habitats.
Andrew Davidson, a member of the team promoting the greenway, said: “We welcome the council’s decision to refuse these applications. Local community groups are developing a network of routes to the west and south of Hereford, offering transformative social, health, environmental and economic benefits.
“If the passageway beneath these bridges was blocked, the viability of the Hereford to Hay Greenway would be greatly weakened.
“The Department for Transport and Highways England have an opportunity through the Historical Railways Estate to become collaborative partners with those seeking to build a better future by constructing safe active travel infrastructure.
“We hope the combative approach they’ve taken so far will moderate in light of the council’s decision.
“The money earmarked for infilling should be spent on modest repairs – which is all that’s needed – allowing us to continue our efforts without being impeded.”