Rhubarb Bridge could now be replaced by a new bridge after a public outcry forced a re-think from Peterborough City Council.
The local authority has promised to seek external funding to replace the popular pedestrian and cyclist crossing at a cost of more than £20 million, and will also now investigate whether it can keep Rhubarb Bridge in place for the next few years.
The bridge - which is said to be at the end of its life - is due to be demolished as part of a £5.5 million council scheme which was fully unveiled last week, only to be met with criticism from councillors and residents alike.
The proposed scheme showed a series of Toucan crossings were to be installed at the roundabout separating Lincoln Road (by Brotherhood Retail Park) and Bourges Boulevard, including on the A47 slip roads, with extra lanes installed for motorists.
However, there were concerns raised immediately that the crossings would be a safety risk on what is a busy roundabout.
Council leader Cllr John Holdich, writing in his Peterborough Telegraph column today, said: “It is clear there has been a very strong public response to the publication of the detailed scheme.”
He added: “We are now looking at another temporary option. Part of the cost of our proposed scheme is to demolish the footbridges.
“We are now investigating whether this part of the scheme’s budget could instead be used to make significant repairs to the bridges to keep them in operation for the next few years.
“I must stress that this would only be a short term solution as the bridges will have to be replaced at some point in the future - and it’s a more costly option.
“If, following investigation, we are able to extend the bridge’s life we would then use that extra time to try and identify external funding opportunities to pay for replacement footbridges.
“However, if we are unable to extend the bridge’s life we would likely go ahead with the scheme that we are currently consulting on. This wouldn’t prevent bridges being constructed in the future and we would commit to try and identify the necessary funding if this were the case.”
The decision to replace the bridge with crossings was first made public in last year’s Local Transport Plan, and the £5.5 million scheme was approved by the Conservative-run council in March as part of its 2017-18 budget, although last week’s public meeting was the first time the full details of the scheme were put on display.
However, the council’s decision to award a contract to Skanska to carry out the works has now been called-in - meaning it is put on hold - by Liberal Democrat councillors Nick Sandford and Darren Fower, and Labour member Cllr Angus Ellis.
The councillors are unhappy that the contract was signed off by cabinet member Cllr Peter Hiller before a public consultation on the scheme had taken place.
They said: “The public is effectively being informed what has already been decided rather than being consulted on it.
“This impression is made all the more obvious by the fact that Cllr Hiller signed the decision notice to award the contract and implement the scheme before the main public consultation drop-in event had been held.”
The call-in adds: “There is no evidence of what other options were considered or any detail of their costings.”
The call-in will be heard by a council scrutiny committee on Tuesday, August 29 at 7pm. If the call-in is successful Cllr Hiller will then be asked to reconsider his decision, taking into account any recommendations. The cabinet member has previously declared that the crossings will improve traffic flow and accessibility for all users.
Works on the Rhubarb Bridge scheme are still expected to take place before April 2018.