Major repairs will be made to Rhubarb Bridge which 12 months ago had been earmarked for demolition.
The important foot and cycle bridge at the A47/A15 junction near Brotherhood Shopping Park is now expected to remain in use for another 10 years, to the joy of campaigners who had fought against proposals to knock it down.
The council had argued last year that the bridge was nearing the end of its life and would cost up to £30 million to replace, but its plan to demolish the structure and bring in signalised pedestrian crossings was criticised.
The £5.5 million project, which will also include widening the road below the bridge, is expected to be approved by the council’s cabinet later this year, with money originally allocated for the demolition now to be spent on making around £1 million of repairs.
However, despite the bridge remaining the crossings will still be installed.
Cllr Peter Hiller, cabinet member for growth, planning, housing and economic development, said: “We always wanted to investigate whether the bridge had to be demolished, or whether the integrity of the structure was of a quality that it could be retained.
“It’s a very complex bridge and we were concerned at the time it was approaching the end of its safe life. That has proved not to be the case.”
Asked if a campaign to save the bridge had affected the cabinet’s decision, he replied: “I think this would have come forward anyway. At the time we did not ignore the calls from the general public and councillors that further investigation was needed.”
A working group of councillors was set up last year to look at options to repair or replace Rhubarb Bridge.
Nyree Ambarchian of the Save Rhubarb Bridge Campaign said the group had spoken to experienced structural engineers who believe the bridge can be maintained to last another 70 years.
She added: “We are cautiously optimistic. It’s great that the council is finally properly considering keeping Rhubarb Bridge and we’re pleased to be consulted by the working party of councillors looking at the matter. We continue to be confused as to why the pedestrian crossings are needed at this stage, and remain worried that this is all part of a longer term plan to remove the bridge later on.”
The council has received £3.85 million of funding from the Department for Transport for the project.
The repairs on the bridge are expected to start later this year.
Full plans to demolish Rhubarb Bridge were unveiled in August 2017 having already twice been approved in principle by councillors.
The £5.5 million project was for Toucan crossings at the A47/A15 roundabout, including on the slip roads, with extra lanes for motorists.
A petition against the plans led to a Full Council debate where a working group was set up to look at all options for the bridge.
Last December council leader Cllr John Holdich promised there would continue to be a bridge after new surveys showed it could be repaired to last for several years.