The £5m bridge to replace the 250-year old stone crossing that washed away during Storm Desmond in 2015 has opened to the public, finally reconnecting the local community to the surrounding area.
The stainless steel bridge – the first such structure in the UK and designed by London-based Knight Architect – will allow cars to once again cross the River Eamont close to the northern point of Lake Ullswater.
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Measuring 128ft long, the landmark bridge replaces the original 18th Century stone structure built in 1764, which was one of more than 700 bridges in Cumbria to be damaged by the storm that year.
The project was the flagship scheme in Cumbria County Council’s Infrastructure Recovery Programme to repair the damage inflicted by Storm Desmond to large sections of road and highway infrastructure. Eric Wright Civil Engineering, the civils arm of Eric Wright Group, was appointed as the main contractor on the Pooley Bridge project.
Diane Bourne, managing director of Eric Wright Civil Engineering, said: “It’s always so sad when we lose a piece of history, so it was really important that we built a new, modern bridge that would not only complement the surroundings but ensure the communities either side of the River Eamont remained permanently connected for future generations to come.
“The new bridge is slender and exceptionally strong and designed to be resilient to any future extreme weather conditions.”
The bridge was designed as a single-span structure to avoid the need for piers in the river, thereby reducing the flood risk and making the structure more flood resilient.
In total, around 80 tonnes of stainless steel were used, together with 2,000 tonnes of concrete and 7,000 sq ft of locally sourced stone. The bridge, which was due to complete in July but was delayed due to Covid-10, took 10,000 person hours to construct, according to the county council. Around 250 people were involved.
The bridge is now open to traffic and pedestrians. It is intended to boost the economy and transport links for local people in the Lake District beauty spot, the council added.
Cllr Keith Little, Cumbria’s cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “The council has been working hard to repair the widespread damage to our highways following Storm Desmond and this is one of the last major projects.
“I’d like to thank all our contractors for creating a fantastic new structure, and the local community in Pooley Bridge who have worked with us through the design stages and construction.”
And Miles MacInnes, chairman of Barton & Pooley Bridge Parish Council, said: “Our community was split in two when we lost our 251-year-old bridge to Storm Desmond – it was like losing a well-loved relative.
“It’s been a long five years and local businesses have suffered but we’re really thrilled that the new bridge is finally open. It looks wonderful and we are sure this spectacular modern structure will prove a popular tourist attraction in its own right.
“We look forward to welcoming visitors back to this beautiful part of Lakeland.”
December 2015 – historic stone bridge washed away by Storm Desmond
March 2016 – temporary road bridge opens
April 2018 – Eric Wright Civil Engineering appointed main contractor for new bridge
May 2019 – works start on site paving way for construction of new bridge
September 2019 – temporary footbridge opens
April 2020 – main structure of new bridge lifted into place across River Eamont
September 2020 – temporary footbridge removed
23 October 2020 – new bridge opens