Preston’s Old Tram Bridge replacement finally on the cards in council funding bid

Hopes have been lifted once again as the council make a move to include the historic structure in its bid

Plans to put ask for vital Government money to replace the Old Tram Bridge in Preston are finally in motion as part of a new Levelling Up council bid.

Preston City Council has confirmed its plans to include the Old Tram Bridge in its latest Levelling Up Fund (LUF) report. Stated within the documents, the summary for the LUF bid is described as ‘investing in our parks and active travel infrastructure to support a healthy, liveable and sustainably connected city’.

The prospect of restoring or rebuilding the historic walkway over the River Ribble – originally built in 1802 – was raised when Preston City Council chiefs previously said the future of the bid could be considered as an option for a bid to the Government’s Levelling Up Fund. It has been three years since the iconic bridge – which links Avenham Park and Penwortham – was abruptly closed amid as it was found it was at risk of sudden collapse.

Recent hurdles dashed the hopes of one campaigning group – the Friends of the Old Tramroad Bridge – as it emerged that councillors would not be presented with the the group’s petition to save the structure because it had failed to comply with rules designed to ensure that signatories have a direct connection to the city council area. The petition, set up former city councillor Daniel Dewhurst, gathered nearly 3,000 signatures.

The estimated cost of repairing the bridge has been estimated at £6million. Campaigners have said that Preston should try to use the LUF to secure the cash – either to build an entirely new bridge or carry out the necessary repairs to the existing endangered structure.

Now, hope seem to have been restored via new council paperwork which shows the authority’s commitment to seeing the project through – or at the very least, taking it to the next step. The current report includes the “replacement of the Tram Bridge” as a potential part of the bid and also indicates improvements to its cycle links “North- South cycle improvements – including public realm improvements on the Friargate from Ringway to Cheapside and connections south to the Tram Bridge”.

Many steps will still need to be taken in order to get funding for this project but for now, the report will subject to a scrutiny meeting on Thursday (April 14). The Cabinet will consider the Levelling Up Fund report at its meeting on Wednesday, April 20.

While many group members of the Friends of Tram Bridge have expressed their delight in seeing the project listed on the bid, the wording used has raised some questions on what would actually come of the bridge in the future.

Carol Farmer said: “You, know. Having read some of the comments that we are possibly talking replacement rather than repair (repair should be the way to go in my opinion). As long as a replacement is a copy of what we have now, hence how the original bridge looked. I’d settle for that. The bottom line is …… GET IT DONE!! I miss not having that river crossing.”

Chairman of the group Glen Cookson replied: “Totally agree Carol. and I share the exact same view as you. It would be nice to repair the current one. But, if the last three years tell us anything I think it is that that idea is an unrealistic one.

“It’s time to move on and as you say… get it done! The FoTB committee are passionate about the bridge heritage and its has been said from the start, if the council decide to go with a replacement – we will push for that to be sympathetic to the current bridge. The bridge has been replaced numerous times throughout its 220 years – it’s history is just simply repeating itself.”

Lisa Huskisson commented: “Fantastic news, I thought all was lost. Well done to all that made this happen.”

Jayne Kilgarriff added: “That’s fantastic news. I cycle to Preston on that route. Have to go to next bridge which takes longer at the moment.”

Danny Joyner said: “Very good news, well done Glenn Cookson and everyone involved, just shows remaining positive can go a long way.”

£20m from the Levelling Up Fund can be bid on by councils like Preston to finance either one proposal or a package of linked schemes up to that value. The cash pot is designed to reduce inequalities between different parts of the UK. A second window for applications opened last week, with a deadline for submissions of 6th July. Bids should be based upon the themes of regeneration, culture or transport – with repairs to bridges being explicitly suggested amongst a range of possible options.

No bids were put through in the first round but Preston City Council revealed earlier this year how it planned to determine the project that will form the basis of its bid to Whitehall.

The authority said that its existing investment priorities would be the “starting point” for formulating the bid – and warned that it would have to balance the potential benefits of a range of possible schemes. Preston has been given priority one status under the fund, meaning that it is considered to have the “highest levels of identified need”.

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