Landowner Agent Frustrated at Lack of Action on Marsh Lock Bridge

Estate Manager, Alex Dick who is agent for the landowners who have provided temporary access across their land due to the Marsh Lock horsebridge being closed is becoming “increasingly convinced and concerned that by offering a temporary solution we have, inadvertently, created a situation whereby people who should be getting on and sorting this problem out are, in fact, putting it on the ‘back burner’.”

Local resident, Simon Loring has now received copies of two inspection reports of the bridge (above and below water) commissioned by the EA under the Freedom of Information Act.

Both inspections were carried out over a year ago.  The underwater inspection was carried out by Red7 last September and an above water inspection by Capita in May 2022.  In the Red7 underwater report it states, “While the bridge structure suffers gross defects it is believed many of the vertical piles, cross head and spanning beams could see continued use, although strengthening works would need to be undertaken.”  In their recommendations, they say, “Consideration should be given to a more extensive replacement programme by nominating a desire cut level likely below the lateral brace receptacle slots.  This would see full replacement of all material above that point and continue to use pile section embedded into the river.  As of 2022 these (piles) were found to be in fair to good condition.”

The Red 7 report continues to say, “Further investigation is needed particularly at the Mill Lane end (Henley side) roadside landing and river bank where jurisdiction/boundaries of land rights come into play (EA, Highways, Local Council and privately owned land) and the continued growth of a privately owned tree and complete failure of the river bank wall is likely to have significant impact on the bridge structure and stability of the surrounding area.”

In the Capita report, they identified a large number of rotten deck boards, rotten parapet posts, and loose and missing handrails, making the bridge unsafe for pedestrians (photo above and below).

Simon said, “The conclusions given say the structure is in fair condition and the underwater survey found no significant risk from the current loadings on the bridge. I do not understand why the bridge was shut and is still shut. Given that the broken handrail section had been broken and taped for about 3 years before the EA shut the structure. It looks like most of the issues are due to lack of any maintenance over the years by the EA. The bridge is not anywhere near collapse.  It’s a timber structure that would probably last another 30+ years, however all structures and buildings require maintenance the EA with 11,000 staff appear to ignore this with the public assets they are suppose to guardian. “

“It took decades to put the Thames Path back and this was only achieved in 1996 and now the path is broken also at Benson and Hurley and the EA have shut 9 camping islands for no apparent reason and many of the locked toilets are not open. The EA can not blame Covid forever.  There is no apparent justification for this failure by the EA to maintain public assets for the public. Covid should have been a perfect opportunity to repair the locks and the structures along the river.”

The EA confirmed in July that the cost of the specialist surveys was £46,000. The EA in July said, “The funding for these has been taken from EA’s Defra Grant in Aid allocation. Any future investment in the bridge is dependent on our discussions with Oxfordshire County Council /Wokingham Borough Council and the necessary allocation of Defra Grant in Aid funding.”

Alex Dick added, “We cannot see anything being done about this other than it being passed from one department to another. Ownership of the bridge is, apparently, being questioned by the EA. If ownership is questioned, under what authority was it closed in the first place? How far has this issue been taken politically? The EA have said they are liaising with Wokingham Borough Council and Oxfordshire County Council; how is that progressing? Has the allocation of DEFRA Grant Aid funding been made and is it being chased up on a regular basis?

“It appears to me that this whole sorry saga is indicative of the reluctant approach to projects like this by Government Departments in general. It seems ridiculous that we cannot get a relatively small project like this sorted out quickly and efficiently. I make no apologies for sounding frustrated; I am.”

An Environment Agency spokesperson this week said:

“We apologise for the inconvenience caused by the ongoing closure of the footbridge at Marsh Lock for safety reasons, and we remain grateful to the landowner for allowing temporary access to the Thames Path over his land.

“Inspections of the structure by our specialist engineers have revealed that major and extensive refurbishment is needed. We remain in close communication with our partners on this matter and together we are exploring all funding options available to us.

“The scale of the essential safety repair work required unfortunately means that the bridge is likely to remain closed throughout this year. We recognise the inconvenience the bridge closure is causing to the local community and we continue to work to resolve the issue as soon as possible.”

1 comment
  1. Janine Lewis says:

    I have huge sympathy. Why doesn’t someone set up a ‘Just Give’ donation site so that locals that use and enjoy the bridge can contribute, so that the council don’t get lambasted for fixing a bridge whilst we have a significant pot hole issue. The council only have so much money, would locals contribute to fixing this?


Leave a Comment

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *