Vandals attack Willow Bridge meaning opening may be delayed

MINDLESS vandals have attacked the brand new Willow Bridge in St Neots which means the opening date may have to be delayed.

THE opening of a new pedestrian and cycle bridge in St Neots could be delayed because of vandalism.

The 40m main section of the Willow Bridge, which links Eynesbury and Eaton Socon across the River Great Ouse, was lifted into place in May.

But since then there have been problems with vandals forcing their way into the construction site, riding motorbikes across the bridge and even trying to set fire to the structure. People have also been seen tombstoning – jumping off the bridge into the river.

Mike Eatock, Cambridgeshire County Council’s chief engineer on the bridge project, told The Hunts Post that the bridge was scheduled to be finished for when schools go back after the summer break, on September 5.

And while he and his team were doing their best to meet that deadline, they “keep encountering setbacks,” he said.

“There’s been a large amount of vandalism on the bridge – people have poured fuel on it and tried to set it on fire, and because it’s steel we have to get specialist engineers in to repair it.”

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Mr Eatock estimated that repairs have so far cost �4-5,000.

“Vandals have also been tearing down the fencing blocking entry to the bridge,” he added. “They’ve been using the bridge to jump into the river, and because it’s a nice long stretch of road, they ride motorbikes across it.”

Chairman of St Neots Town Council, Councillor Barry Chapman, told The Hunts Post: “When you look at the bridge it’s going to be a tremendous facility for the town. It’s both disheartening and disappointing that a few individuals want to vandalise such a terrific project at such an early stage.”

Work on the �3.5million project began in January and is being funded by developer contributions, Huntingdonshire District Council and the Big Lottery Fund.

Once completed it will be 346m long and will form part of the national cycle network.It was hoped that the remaining section of the bridge, including approach ramps, would be slotted into place in the next few weeks, but this may have to be delayed.

Mr Eatock said: “We are working hard on the bridge, but if it’s not completed in time we may have to consider opening just a section of it until the rest is finished.”

The bridge will also be connected to more cycle paths than originally anticipated, thanks to a further funding boost.

CCC said yesterday (Tuesday): “We have also just managed to get more Government funding to enable us to deliver some more cycle paths, including one to Pockets Park and one to St Neots Community College.”