After Months EA Finally Confirms it Legally Owns Marsh Lock Horsebridge

The Environment Agency (EA) have finally confirmed that they are legal owners of Marsh Lock Horsebridge in an email to John Howell’s MP office this week after chasing for response as to what action they are taking to make the bridge safe after closing it in May 2022.

Many were asking why the EA closed the bridge and/or paid £46K to do the above and below water surveys if they didn’t think they owned the bridge.

The email from the EA says, “The bridge was initially closed in May 2022 because we had concerns about public safety. My local asset management staff commissioned an engineering assessment of the bridge, which was completed in June 2022. This highlighted 161 individual bridge elements that either need replacing or remedial work before the bridge can be re-opened. It is likely that due to the number of defects along the bridge, it will require either a major refurbishment or replacement which is likely to cost over £1m.  The local team have discussed with Oxfordshire County Council the potential for a temporary crossing to be established over the existing bridge, and this will be progressed alongside our other Navigation asset management priorities.

“We have only recently confirmed that we (Environment Agency) are the legal owners of Marsh Horsebridge and, now this has been clarified, we will ensure the project is included in our medium-term Navigation capital investment programme. Projects within this programme are funded through Defra grant-in-aid and prioritised against all our Navigation asset needs across 45 lock sites, 195 weirs and approximately 100 bridges. Projects that are not affordable within a specific financial year are programmed across future years. I know this will be disappointing news for you but due to the likely costs associated with refurbishing Marsh Horsebridge, and the competing priorities with our capital programme, it is likely that the bridge will remain closed throughout 2024, unless a temporary crossing can be established.”

“I understand the frustration of your constituents in not being able to access the bridge, but I know you will also understand the importance of ensuring that the bridge is safe to access. I will ensure that major Navigation projects such as this are included in our future Spending Review requests, and I have also asked the team to work with partners to explore any other potential opportunities to identify funding so that we can try and progress this work more quickly.”

Cllr David Bartholomew, County Councillor for Sonning Common Division which covers Shiplake said, “I have been pressing the matter at OCC for nearly two years and it seems the unwanted side-effect of the generosity of the Culden Faw estate has been to reduce the urgency of the matter as far as the various authorities are concerned. And of course it’s not just our constituents that are suffering – this section is a key part of the Thames Path which is a ‘National Trail’. My concern is that as a diversion is now in place, the matter will go on the back-burner once again. Political pressure needs to be maintained.”

 

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