The second phase of Burton's controversial £6.1 million bridge repair programme could now be delayed until next summer following a huge outcry from traders and drivers, it has been revealed.
Motorists and businesses hit by the three-month closure of St Peter's Bridge - which has left some firms fighting for survival - are now being urged to have their say on when work on Burton Bridge should begin.
Staffordshire County Council leader Philip Atkins has said the Burton Bridge works could now be put back to summer 2018 rather than the New Year to ease fears of further disruption just weeks after the completion of the St Peter's Bridge scheme.
And he is urging all those affected by the bridge repairs to take part in a massive public consultation exercise by contacting Staffordshire County Council with their preference over the Burton Bridge works.
The county council successfully secured funding from the Government to improve both St Peter's Bridge and Burton Bridge, but due to the impact of the St Peter’s Bridge closure on traders, the council has now asked that the proposed works to Burton bridge move to next summer.
One of the conditions of the funding is that the scheme was completed in this financial year. But due to the backlash from businesses which have suffered since the works began in August, the county council has won permission from the Department for Transport to postpone the improvements - if that is what the people and businesses of Burton want.
Philip Atkins, leader of Staffordshire County Council, said: "Although everyone understands that this work absolutely has to be carried out to safeguard the future use of both bridges, we recognise the inevitable disruption the necessary closure has brought to the town, especially at peak times.
"We have listened to these concerns and want to do everything we can to mitigate the impact of these crucial scheme on residents and businesses in particular.
"We believe that the closure of two major gateways in succession is an exceptional case and we have managed to secure the option to start the work in the summer rather than the New Year, without risking losing the funding.
"If this is what people want, this is what we will do, but we want the people of Burton to make that choice."
The successful Highways Challenge Fund bid was announced in August and required work to begin immediately on St Peter's Bridge – or risk losing the funding and suffer a future ban on HGVs and buses, or even potential permanent closure.
The complex nature of the engineering project means the bridge needs to be closed for three months, although the county council said it was looking at every opportunity to bring the works forward.
Philip added: "The length of time necessary to the closure of St Peter’s is unfortunately dictated purely by the nature of the project, although like everyone we want to see it open as soon as possible.
"We would like to thank the people of Burton for their continued patience and also ask that people continue to support the town and its businesses during the project."
The detailed work to safeguard Burton Bridge is expected to last two months with the council saying that access for cyclists and pedestrians will be maintained.
Please have your say on whether the work planned for Burton Bridge should take place in the New Year or summer by emailing email@example.com
Bridge questions answers:
Why does the work need to take place?
St Peter’s Bridge and Burton Bridge provide main routes into Burton town centre carrying on average 24,000 vehicles a day each. Highways authority Staffordshire County council has said over the years the bearings on St Peter’s Bridge – which allow movement of the bridge as traffic travels over it – have worn and now need replacing. Patch and repair work would mean ongoing works sporadically over years, causing significant disruption and affecting the town’s economy so they need to be replaced, says the authority.
Replacing bearings and carrying out major repairs on Burton Bridge as part of the £6.1 million programme will strengthen and protect the bridges for decades. If work is not carried out, a weight limit would need to be introduced on St Peter’s Bridge in 2019, with a full permanent closure in 2024. This is not an option.
How long will the work take?
The St Peter’s Bridge repairs will be completed by the end of November 2017.
Why can’t one lane be open on the bridge while work takes place?
There are a number of reasons why the work cannot be undertaken on one lane at a time, says the council. Firstly, the size of equipment being used on the bridge would not allow for safe passage of traffic. In addition, the deck of the bridge has to be cleaned, concrete repairs carried out and the surface then kept clean in order for waterproofing to be carried out. Passing vehicles could cause dust to settle on the treated surface.
To ensure we are not weather dependant which could add to the duration of the works, the deck width will be covered by a working 'tent' that can be moved along the deck in sections and ensure the surface is kept clean, not affected by wet weather and in which the temperature can be controlled.
Where will traffic be diverted to during the closure of St Peter’s Bridge?
For vehicles wishing to travel in an easterly direction the diversion route will be via A5189 Orchard Street, Evershed Way, Shobnall Road, A5121 Wellington Street, Waterloo Street, Byrkley Street, Derby Street, A511 Horninglow Street, Wetmore Road, Bridge Street and A444 Stapenhill Road.
For vehicles wishing to travel in a westerly direction the diversion route will be via A444 Stapenhill Road, A511 Burton Bridge, Bridge Street, Horninglow Street, A5121 Derby Street, Borough Road, Wellington Street, A5189 Shobnall Road, Evershed Way and Orchard Street.
For pedestrians and cyclists the diversion route will be via the newly refurbished and strengthened Ferry Bridge that provides a direct route from Stapenhill to Burton town centre.
How have you chosen this diversion route as the most suitable?
Whenever a road closure is put in place, traffic has to be diverted along the same classification of road as the one being closed. There are only two main road bridges to get across the river in the centre of Burton. This planned diversion route planned is therefore the only practical one that can be put into operation.
On main roads outside of Burton, signs will inform people of the closure and also advise drivers to use alternative routes. Drivers who do not need to access Burton itself can then use wider alternative routes. We want to minimise as far as is reasonably practical traffic using Burton to get to other places, particularly on the opposite sides of the river.