This is an updated version of a Q and A about the bridge project published on the BBA website in Spring 2015 following planning consent being given. This version also takes into account objection comments raised during the 2018 public consultation planning process.
Need for a bridge Q: Why build a bridge in Burley when there are sufficient crossing points of the river nearby at Otley, Ben Rhydding and Ilkley? A: Ben Rhydding and Otley bridges are approximately 2.5 miles and 3.5 miles away respectively and only reached alongside busy, polluted and noisy roads. While they may be suitable for car travel to access the north bank, they are not convenient or suitable for most walkers, runners and other people from Burley who say they would prefer a quiet, safe and traffic free crossing. A bridge would inevitably attract more walkers into Burley which would benefit local businesses. A long distance walk, the Yorkshire Heritage Way, has also been devised by Ramblers linking Bradford and Saltaire with Fountains Abbey and Ripon, crossing the river in Burley. This would also benefit hospitality businesses, but will not be promoted until there is a safe crossing. Q: Why not accept the unpredictability of whether it is possible to cross the stepping stones and adapt plans accordingly? A: The stepping stones are a public right of way but are blocked for around half the year, and can be dangerous and slippery to walk on at other times particularly after winter water levels have recently reduced. Water levels also rise extremely quickly on the Wharfe and the stones can easily be covered less than a two hour period following rain upstream. Walking groups, athletic clubs and local schools for example, find it difficult to plan to cross the river using the stones for organised events (for instance cross country races) because of the risks involved. Individuals may choose to use the stones but occasionally have found themselves marooned on the north bank. The temptation to cross the river while in spate in order to avoid a 5 to 7 mile detour could lead to inappropriate risks being taken. The death of a young Burley person in 1967 arose from this scenario. Q: Why is the bridge supported by Burley Parish Council and by North Yorkshire and Bradford Councils? A: Burley Parish Council included the bridge in its Neighbourhood Plan, following widespread support for the project by Burley residents during the public consultation stages and events. The Neighbourhood Plan was approved by Bradford Council following an 82% vote in favour at the referendum in May 2018. Both North Yorkshire and Bradford Councils include the bridge within their respective Rights of Way Improvement Plans, given the strategic importance the crossing has for linking the footpath network on both sides of the river. Officers from both councils have continued to give advice and support for the project. The project has received long term support from the local MP Philip Davies, who has been instrumental in setting up council meetings and in securing important legal advice from a minister. There has also been consistent support from local ward councillors and from the local Labour party.
Funding and maintenance Q: How will the bridge be funded? A: The construction and maintenance costs of the bridge will be funded entirely from voluntary sources, with no financial demand on either North Yorkshire or Bradford councils. Applications for capital funding will be made to businesses and grant giving trusts. Local fundraising events will be held, and members of the public will be invited to make donations. Q: Wouldn’t the money be better spent on community police officers, or other community facilities such as a sports pavilion, the Scout Hut, a car park and so on? A: The BBA will be targeting specialist sources of funding that fund large capital projects, not revenue projects involving salaries. As the focus of the project is a bridge to provide a link within a public rights of way network, the BBA does not envisage applying to the same sources of funding that would fund a sports pavilion, the Scout Hut or a car park. Members of the public are free to choose which local project or charity they wish to support. Q: Where has the money gone that the BBA has already raised? A: The majority of the money raised by the BBA from membership subscriptions and donations has paid for design work, detailed plans, surveys and for other costs associated with planning applications to Bradford and Harrogate Councils including the fees for the applications themselves. The BBA has produced detailed independently audited accounts for many years which are distributed to BBA members and supporters prior to and during the AGM which clearly indicate sources of income and expenditure. Since becoming a charity in August 2015, the BBA is also required to submit audited accounts to the Charity Commission, and these are available to see on the Charity Commission website. Copies of recent accounts can also be found on the BBA website. At the 2018 AGM, BBA membership agreed that in future, all donations received would be placed in a deposit account ring-fenced for construction and maintenance costs, rather than for campaign running costs. Q: Is the BBA listening to concerns? A: Trustees from the BBA are always prepared to discuss concerns about the bridge, and can be contacted via the group’s email address: firstname.lastname@example.org . Previous designs for a bridge have been rejected following concerns being raised by Burley residents, and the current design was modified prior to the original application for planning approval being submitted, following discussions with interested parties. AGMs are always open to the public as well as to members and supporters and have been widely advertised in the village to encourage attendance. Developments are published on the BBA website, and the BBA Facebook page provides an opportunity for comments to be made. AGM minutes are also published on the website. A decision not to publish minutes of Trustee meetings was taken in the autumn of 2015 due to the confidential nature of discussions with landowners and local stakeholders which were then being reported on.
Support for the bridge Q: What are the views of those Burley residents living closest to the proposed site of the bridge? A: Residents of Greenholme Cottages or Leatherbank are understandably anxious about any disruption that would be caused to them through the construction phase, and thereafter by the impact of an increase in the numbers of people passing close to their properties (by using the public right of way in order to access the bridge). In terms of the construction phase, the BBA is committed to ensuring contractors work closely with residents in order to minimise the impact of construction traffic and noise from the site through frequent liaison meetings. A method statement for the construction phase will be produced as part of the detailed design stage.
After the bridge has opened there will be inevitably an increase following the bridge construction of pedestrians using the public right of way from the village. However, it is doubtful that this will remain significant once the initial interest in the bridge has died down, other than during the summer. The bridleway along Leatherbank and the permissive path from Greenholme Mills to the Weir already form the most popular circular walking route in Burley for people of all ages, including older people, people with limited mobility, and parents with children of all ages. Summer use may very well increase as a result of the bridge by local people wishing to access the north bank for recreation. However, this land is private property, and while previous landowners have tolerated (albeit probably unwillingly) its use during summer for local picnicking, swimming etc. for decades, simple steps are being considered which could restrict or better manage such use even before a bridge is constructed. Q: Do most of the campaigners for the bridge live outside Burley? A: Five of the current six trustees of the Burley Bridge Association live in Burley. The majority of the BBA committee in previous years have also been Burley residents. 75% of BBA members and supporters live in Burley, Menston or Burley Woodhead. Some of the remaining members and supporters are ex Burley residents, and most live in nearby communities such as Addingham, Harrogate, Baildon, Guiseley. During the public consultation events which took place in the village in 2014 prior to the last planning applications, the 80 or so people attending were mostly Burley residents, with 5% objecting to the bridge. Q: Does the bridge have any support from the Askwith community? A: At a presentation in 2017 by the BBA to the Mid Wharfedale Parish Council, covering Askwith, a number concerns were raise about the bridge project. These were largely fears about the potential impact of increased numbers of people from Burley walking to Askwith creating traffic hazards in the village because of the absence of footpaths. There was concern that the bridge would lead to an ‘urbanisation’ of Askwith, and there have also been concerns about a potential increase in litter and vandalism on the north bank. Privately, some residents have said that they would appreciate having a bridge in order to visit family and friends in Burley without needing to use a car. Businesses on the north bank would benefit from increase in trade from the village, for instance Cockpit Farm tea rooms. Unfortunately, the Askwith Arms closed again in the autumn of 2017 as it was not profitable, having previously been closed for a period up to 2015 for the same reason.
Site for the bridge Q: Have all other sites for the bridge been fully assessed? What about Greenholme Mills, where there are plans for a mixed residential and commercial development? A: The proposed site was selected after careful assessment of all the alternatives because of the existence of well-known rights of way on both sides of the river. A suggestion by Burley Parish Council that Greenholme Mills could be a more appropriate site was followed up immediately with the north bank landowner. He responded through his land agent that he would strongly oppose any bridge and the creation of new rights of way across his property. This was a similar response to that made when the idea was first raised by the BBA earlier in the campaign for the bridge. Q: Are there any plans to improve the bridleway that crosses the river at the ford close to bridge site? A: The BBA is willing to look at what improvements could be made to the ford in order to improve the ability of horses to cross safely. This would need to be done in conjunction with the owners of the south bank and the river bed, the West Riding Anglers Association. Some informal discussion has already taken place with horse owners to identify how the crossing could be improved.
Stability and durability of the bridge Q: Is there a risk that the stabilising cables below the main walkway soffit will be vulnerable to snagging by large flood debris, for instance mature tree trunks. A: This has been carefully considered by very experienced bridge architects. The design has also been reviewed by the Environment Agency (EA) with no adverse comment. Design of the stabilising cables can be achieved by a number of means and their orientation could be amended. They could also be removed if the deck itself is stiffened further. They are included as they lighten the overall structure and visual impact. Any changes to the current plan will be addressed in the detailed design stage. Q: Can the Environment Agency’s 100 year flood level of +63.5m AOD* be relied upon given that a local resident estimates this has been exceeded 3 times in the past 50 years? A: There is no formal corroboration that this statement is correct. Currently available EA data indicates 1 in 100 year level of +63.05m AOD (+63.5m AOD includes an allowance for predicted climate change). The data even suggests that a lower level of +63.3m AOD is the actual 1 in 200 year level. The Flood Risk Assessment (FRA) mentions that the current EA flood level is used, but should it change then the central bridge span can be raised in the detailed design stage. *AOD refers to Above Ordnance Datum, and is the standard measurement used for measuring water levels. Q: Wouldn’t a more skeleton structure be more appropriate than the use of weathering steel which will restrict river flow, dominate the scenery and is more appropriate in an urban area? A: Ramboll UK, bridge builders and designers of the proposed bridge and the BBA believe that the proposed design is appropriate. We all believe the structure is designed to have minimal physical and visual impact on its surroundings, will not restrict river flow, and is just as appropriate in a rural setting as an urban one. Both Harrogate and Bradford Councils have also approved the design as being appropriate for an attractive landscape that has already been changed through industrial development. Q: How will the maintenance of the bridge be organised and funded? A: Burley in Wharfedale Community Trust has agreed in principle to take over responsibility for the bridge from the Burley Bridge Association following construction, to manage the maintenance fund and ensure that the maintenance schedule is adhered to. Bradford Council has indicated they may also be prepared to consider adopting the bridge providing that a ‘dowry fund’ was provided to cover long term costs. The fundraising target for the bridge will include an element to cover life time maintenance and repair costs. The bridge has been deliberately designed to be rugged, durable and simple with no paint finishes, no cladding, no moving parts and no drainage, therefore having low maintenance costs. Q: Who will maintain the stepping stones in the future? A: Currently, the stones are maintained by Bradford Council, by agreement with North Yorkshire Council. Significant repairs were undertaken in June 2013 by Bradford Council following flood damage which had made the stones hazardous and inaccessible due to gaps for a number of years. The stones apparently form a hydrological function as well as being a public right of way, however, and will probably need to be maintained following the transfer of the right of way to the bridge. The stones’ future maintenance needs and costs, and whether they could remain to be usable in the long term would need to be the subject of future discussion including between the Environment Agency and the landowner.
Southern bank and ramp Q: How can the bridge provide a safe, dry all year crossing when the ramp at the southern side of the bridge will be 1.4 metres lower than that on the north side, and so will be more likely to be inaccessible during high water conditions? Doesn’t the difference in heights pose a health and safety risk for people accessing the bridge from the north during high water? A: The height of the southern ramp and of the northern board walk have been considered, in conjunction with the Environment Agency, with relation to optimising the usability of the bridge, balancing the need to clear flood waters and minimise the physical and visual impact on the surrounding landscape. It will be possible to raise the south bank ramp although this will mean incorporating more of the existing boundary wall. This will be considered within the detailed design stage. Q: Will the 3 metre access between the southern ramp and the boundary wall of the access track prevent maintenance vehicles reaching the river bed with a problematic turn into the river due to the bridge abutment? Will the entrance to the access gate to 5 Acre Field (immediately after the bridge over the Goit) be affected? A: 3 metres is sufficient width for the majority of vehicles. The ramp has been designed to minimise any physical impact. It should be noted that the EA is the main authority with overall responsibility for ensuring the maintenance of the river and they have not objected to the scheme including the width of the access track. There will be no impact on the access gate to 5 Acre Field, the entrance to which is some distance away from the start of the ramp. Q: What are the specifications for the south ramp in terms of materials? A: The south ramp will be formed of concrete with natural stone cladding to match the surrounding walls.
Northern bank and boardwalk Q: Won’t the new large abutments exacerbate erosion of the north bank leading to the bridge becoming inaccessible? A: There are no large abutments, only piers which are relatively small. Any mitigation measures will be considered in the detailed design stage in order to address existing erosion and risk of further erosion in consultation with the landowner. Q: Is there a risk that the northern boardwalk will be fully submerged during major flood events with flood debris accumulating behind the deck? A: The northern boardwalk has a proposed height of +62m AOD which Ramboll believe is the optimum level, but could be easily raised. The boardwalk spans between a shelf incorporated into the main bridge pier and another as close to the north bank as possible. The parapets provide the structural depth with no below-deck impediment to water flow. Users of the bridge Q: Why go to the expense of a bridge and spoil a historic site just so a few walkers don’t get their feet wet? A: Analysis of the broad range of members of the public submitting support comments to both planning authorities provides evidence of the wide range of potential users for a bridge. These range from families with young children who wish to take short walks to Askwith, through to older local people who wish to maintain their healthy lifestyle through walking longer distances, to members of walking groups and athletic clubs from local and neighbouring communities and further afield who wish to make plans involving crossing the river with reasonable confidence. The safety risks that the stones pose cannot be understated, and it is important to remember that a 14 year old Burley boy, John, died in 1968 attempting to cross the flooded stones after a sudden rise in the water level. Memories of his death was said to be a reason by some of his contemporaries for joining the campaign for a bridge, including one person in becoming a BBA committee member. Q: Why has the bridge been designed so that it is inaccessible to wheelchair users? Isn’t this discriminatory? A: The second of the three designs that have been proposed for the bridge was an ‘all user’ wheelchair accessible bridge that could also be used by horses and bicycles. However, the necessary larger scale for the bridge was rejected by the majority of people in Burley as being unsightly and highly inappropriate for the site. The value for wheelchair users was also questioned given that the footpaths on the north bank are very unsuitable for wheelchairs. The bridge will, however, significantly improve accessibility to the north bank for local residents of all ages and ability who indicate they are anxious about using the stepping stones even when they are uncovered and able to be crossed. Ways of improving accessibility further will be considered at the detailed design stage. Q: Won’t the bridge encourage picnicking, barbeques, overnight camping by young people, drug taking, anti-social behaviour, litter, and trespassing further along the river bank towards Weston or to Ilkley? A: The north bank is private land with legal public access only along the footpath and the bridleway. However, generations of Burley children, young people and adults including older people, have accessed the field on the north bank without formal landowner permission for recreational purposes during the summer months especially at weekends if the river level has been low. This appears by and large to have been reluctantly tolerated by successive landowners for many decades. Litter has been a long standing problem, with many people choosing to leave remains of family picnics or late night parties on the north bank. A litter bin supported by nearby signs was installed by the BBA in April 2016 near to the bridge site following agreement with the landowner, Bradford Council and nearby residents. It has been well used over the past two years and has led to a significant reduction in litter. The bin is normally emptied by the Bradford Council litter team up three times a week during the summer months, and every 2 or 3 weeks during winter, and is monitored by BBA volunteers who undertake regular checks. A local resident has recently offered to host a wheelie bid from March 2019 in which excess litter during the summer can be placed pending collection. Litter will probably remain a problem on the north bank regardless of a bridge. West Yorkshire police have said that they will always respond to complaints of anti-social behaviour, for instance loud music and overnight camping on the north bank. Q: Will the bridge encourage more illegal parking on Leatherbank? The majority of people who currently access the riverside site are local people who walk, run or sometimes cycle from Burley. Although the BBA was prepared to fund signage at the beginning of Leatherbank to indicate that the road was private property with no parking, a local resident funded the placing of a sign in 2017. It remains to be seen during 2018 to what degree this has the desired effect in deterring car parking. Other measures have been discussed with local residents, but solutions would need to be agreed between all residents and landowners, for instance the occasional closing of the Leatherbank access gate during busy weekends.