Should B&NES keep the old Windsor Bridge?

© Google Street

[The old bridge runs alongside the more recent Windsor Bridge]

Originally installed in 1837 as a road link across the Avon between Twerton and Weston, the old Windsor Bridge – also formerly known as the Twerton Suspension Bridge – has more recently carried out a less illustrious role – being repurposed to carry gas pipes and telecommunication ducts.

Now the bridge is deemed redundant and – as it is said to be in poor condition – B&NES is asking itself for planning permission to demolish it. The council says it must make way for an enhanced public realm as part of the Bath Western Riverside Phase 2 housing development.

However, John Branston – in an email to me – argues for its retention.

“I’ve just had notification that B&NES is applying to itself to demolish the old bridge parallel to Windsor Bridge, which some still remember as a vehicular river crossing prior to the current Windsor Bridge being built and which has, for decades, carried gas pipelines.

Given that it directly joins the river path on the north of the river with the planned cycle corridor through the Chivers House site (whenever that site is developed) and is also within a few metres of the Two Tunnels path where it emerges onto Lower Bristol Road, surely this would be better refurbished (once the defunct pipelines have been removed) with a new deck to provide a pedestrian- and cycle-friendly link that is separate from the very busy traffic on Windsor Bridge?

I think this is an amazing opportunity and could be something of a statement of how serious the council is about improving infrastructure. Could you enquire with relevant cabinet members why this potential opportunity is not being pursued for sustainable and pedestrian travel?”

I have asked B&NES, and local councilors, for comment but, in the meantime, a heritage statement that accompanies the planning application, gives the following information.

‘The current proposal is to demolish the main span of the later bowstring girder bridge,
its approach spans, and northern pier of the 1837 suspension bridge, reduce the
height of the northern approach ramp wall of the 1837 bridge by removing the
(probably Victorian) ashlar section of walling which sits above it, and to shorten the
southern end of the original wall at its junction with the northern approach span,
rebuilding the abutment at this end.

The southern pier will also be altered to
accommodate ecological features such as bat roosts and bird boxes, whilst the
concrete-built southern approach ramp may or may not require its abutment to be
rebuilt or retained.

Improved public realm and access to the towpath/cycle path will
be provided on the northern side of the river, including pedestrian steps down to the
towpath and replacement tree planting, whilst replacement riverside trees and habitat
planting will be introduced on the south bank.’

Commenting on the proposals, Adam Reynolds, the chair of the campaign group Cycle Bath, says:

“In my opinion this minor parallel footbridge is not needed or strategically important or even socially safe. Much better to spend money on a new “twin sisters” cycle bridge next to Fielding’s Bridge as that is a key connection and put protected cycle lanes on Windsor Bridge with CYCLOPS junctions at either end (https://www.bolton.gov.uk/news/article/1061/bolton-opens-the-uk-s-second-pioneering-cyclops-junction)

Adam Reynolds

Locally we’re pushing this forward as the “Bristol & Bath Railway Path: Bath Extension” which will create a new active travel corridor all the way to Sainsbury’s. Officers working on the Riverline are aware of this and I believe are working with WECA to get the BBRP Bath Extension funded and delivered as a parallel project. This will maintain the river path as a leisure route while providing a much more attractive route for faster cycling/eScooters.

Riverside Gas Works development supports this new route and BaNES planning are fully briefed as to its significance.

It’s all very exciting and should hopefully be done and dusted by 2028. It will definitely increase my bridge count!” 

Saskia Heijltjes – who is the Bicycle Mayor of Bath!

Meanwhile, Saskia Heijtjes – who is Bicycle Mayor of Bath – adds the following on behalf of ‘Walk Ride Bath’:

“This bridge is not considered to be a key or practical asset for conversion into a walking and cycling route given its access, state of repair and narrow construction. As part of a wider scale project BathNES Council is known to be actively addressing bringing back into use the Locksbrook Bridge (the former Midland Railway bridge) across the river to the west of Windsor Bridge, and a new bridge to complement or replace the Fieldings Road (LIDL) bridge. These are considered to be highly desirable and practical proposals which are fully supported.”

AND a reaction from Simon Martin who is the Director for Regeneration and Housing for the Bath Enterprise Zone.

“The old pipe bridge is being proposed for demolition now that the rationalisation of the former gas works has completed the pipe relocations and the old pipes using this superstructure are no longer live. This structure does not form part of the connections through Chivers House which in policy terms connects the railway bridge at the rear of the Chivers House to provide the sustainable travel corridor and connect the NCN4 route with the greenway and 2-tunnels route. The proposals to remove this structure improve access to the towpath from the junction of Windsor Bridge Rd.

The old structures condition is not suitable for refurbishment and assessments of the superstructure show that upon removal of the pipes the structure will be unstable and at risk of collapse. Of the 3 redundant bridge structure along this section of the river, this one is not located in a position that provides the connectivity. Land to the south of this bridge is private and sits outside the Chivers house permission.

The Council is progressing its proposals to deliver the extension of NCN 4 through Locksbrook and over the railway bridge to achieve the policy aspiration, considering the options around crossing Windsor bridge Rd via a bridge if feasible to create the continuous E-W route for cyclists.”