Marsh Lock Footbridge Likely to Remain Shut for Rest of the Year

At the recent Henley Town Full Council meeting on Tuesday (19th March), Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak delivered the disappointing news that the Marsh Lock bridge will likely be shut for the rest of the year. This update compounds frustrations stemming from the prolonged shutdown of the bridge, which forms an integral part of the Thames Path.

The bridge, which forms part of the Thames Path, was shut by the Environment Agency in May 2022 due to reported safety concerns and structural issues. Repairs were initially expected to be completed in two months; however, nearly a year later, the footbridge remains off-limits to pedestrians.

Councillor Gawrysiak expressed his frustrations over the lack of progress, revealing ongoing challenges in negotiations between the Environment Agency (EA) and Oxfordshire County Council (OCC). Despite the efforts of Councillor Bartholomew from Shiplake, Deputy Mayor Councillor Hunt, and himself, Councillor Gawrysiak explained that both organisations are “just missing the point”. Despite having identified the problems, both parties cannot agree who is responsible for paying to repair the bridge, claims Councillor Gawrysiak.

Expressing exasperation over the situation, Councillor Gawrysiak highlighted the imminent closure of a temporary diversion route across Culden Faw estate. Urs Schwarzenbach, owner of the estate, opened the diversion in May 2022, building a temporary bridge over a stream to give access to walkers in both directions. However, the temporary footpath will be permanently shut from 31 March. This follows original plans to close the diversion in April 2023 due, in part, to a lack of action from the Environment Agency. The estate hopes that the closure of the diversion will put pressure on authorities to re-open the footbridge.

Councillor Gawrysiak suggested at the meeting that, if a date was set for the bridge’s repair, he might be able to negotiate keeping the diversion open. Without a date, he said, “Culden Faw are quite right to be pretty miffed off with the way they have been treated by OCC and the Environment Agency.”

Once the Culden Faw diversion is closed, the alternative route will take Thames Path walkers up Mill Lane, along the Reading Road, down into Harpseden village, up and over the top through Woodlands Road, down to Shiplake Cross, and back down the road to the river. Councillor Gawrysiak described this diversion as “sheer and utter stupidity and madness.”

When asked by Councillor Jackson if the repairs had been costed, Councillor Gawrysiak expressed uncertainty, stating, “I’m sure it has but we haven’t been able to find that information.” He further highlighted the challenge of accessing critical documents, noting that they also have not been able to find the structural engineer’s report on the bridge despite repeatedly asking for it.

Councillor Gawrysiak concluded his update by stating, “Watch this space – nothing will happen for the moment, but we can only hope.”

The Henley Society have written to the CEO of the EA Philip Duffy asking about the lack of action on the bridge last week.

1 comment
  1. Graham Young says:

    I was shocked when I saw the diversion sign this weekend (11.05.24) and totally agree with Councillor Gawrysiak’s comment, plus I would add the word ‘dangerous’, due to having to cross a very busy main road (Reading Road) in the new diversion. Although different governing bodies are involved, and on a larger scale, this smacks of the fiasco with the Fawley Court footbridge, which took a ridiculous time to resolve. How about these people who are paid by the people, actually work for the people.

    Reply

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