Marsh Lock footbridge remains closed after nearly 2 years and the landowners who kindly provided a diversion of the Thames Path across their land are now considering withdrawing the access as they are fed up with how long it is taking to reopen.
In July last year, the ownership of the footbridge was challenged by the Environment Agency (EA) as it is not within the EA land title and was being investigated with Oxfordshire CC (OCC) and Wokingham BC according to the OCC Thames Path Manager. In September, published information from inspection reports that were requested by resident Simon Loring under the Freedom of Information act that were carried out in 2022. The reports stated “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.”
Alex Dick, Estate Manager for Culden Faw who own the land said, “On 28 November I received a response to my letter sent to the Environment Agency on 31 August. The fact it took the Environment Agency nearly three months to respond shows, in my view, the priorities being placed on this issue by them. They have said:-
Detailed inspections of Marsh Lock Horsebridge, undertaken by specialist bridge engineers, revealed that major and extensive refurbishment is needed. Our stakeholder engagement with Oxfordshire County Council and Wokingham Borough Council is ongoing to explore the necessary legal aspects of this footpath closure as well as possible funding options. The scale of the essential structural repair work required unfortunately means there is currently not a defined re-opening date and the bridge is likely to remain closed for the remainder of this financial year. Once our stakeholder conversations have concluded, we will be able to define what Defra grant in aid applications will be required.
“It is clear to me that this issue will extend beyond the financial year and there are several organisations who are now not willing to get a grip of this situation.”
“The owners of the land gave a temporary diversion in good faith and in the expectation that Government organisations would have the ability and willingness to get this issue resolved quickly. Clearly that is not the case and perhaps that is because a temporary solution was given so the EA and others are taking the easy option and pushing it to the bottom of the ‘to do’ list.”
“As a result, we are considering withdrawing access to the temporary diversion as this whole debacle has gone on for far too long.”
An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “Marsh Horsebridge remains closed because of essential safety repair reasons. We apologise for any inconvenience this has caused and we remain grateful to the landowner for allowing temporary access to the Thames Path over his land.
“We’re in discussion with Oxfordshire County Council about the necessary technical, and legal actions needed to re-open the bridge, and the funding options available for the repair.
“The bridge is likely to remain closed for an extended period, but we will continue to work to resolve the issue as soon as possible.”
We asked for a statement from Oxfordshire County Council’s Thames Path Manager 3 weeks ago and have not received a reply.