OPINIONS clashed as residents met to discuss ambitious plans for a new £6 million footbridge in Gainsborough.
The contemporary bridge is designed to span the River Trent connecting Gainsborough’s riverside to land near the Trent Port on the Beckingham side – where it was revealed that a marina and allotments may be built too.
Dozens attended the meeting at the YASIG Centre on Thursday 3rd February where architect Oliver Houchell and Charles Cooke of the now disbanded Gainsborough Stakeholders Network revealed the details of the design.
A great deal of concern was voiced about how the project would be funded, before a councillor from West Lindsey District Council said that they would not be funding it, and Charles Cooke revealed they would seek private investment and grants from central government and the Sustrans organisation.
Mr Cooke said that plans for a footbridge for Gainsborough stemmed back to 1997, and since then many public consultations and meetings with the Environment Agency had taken place, and West Lindsey District Council had commissioned a feasibility study.
“People are complaining that it’s a bridge to nowhere – but it will remain nowhere until we build a bridge,” he said. “If you build it then people will use it. The bridge does go somewhere, it goes to the Beckingham Marshes.”
“This will make access into Gainsborough from the Beckingham side much easier and we have considered an access road and car park on the other side to relieve parking in the town centre and we have also discussed areas for recreational use for parks and playgrounds.”
He continued: “Gainsborough is a place that demands quality, and if you look at something like the Angel of the North or the Millennium Bridge then you can see that these things are iconic and stimulating.”
“Gainsborough should have higher expectations of itself and if it’s going to grow, it needs a better sort of growth and this bridge and development of the potential of the Riverside will help that.”
District Councillor Chris Underwood-Frost attended the meeting and spoke up to say that WLDC would not be funding the bridge, but encouraged residents to be ‘open-minded’ about future projects.
“We as a district council are not going to put any money into this project,” he said.
He continued: “The £3 million that was spent on the Market Place could have been spent in Derby or anywhere else, but we fought for it and it was spent here. What we’re trying to do is get this town turned around and get regional money coming in. We’ve got to be open-minded to see how this town will progress in the future.”
Bridge designer Oliver Houchell has previously worked for Wilkinson Eyre Architects who have built a number of famous bridges around the world.
“The bridge would be a very important part of the local infrastructure,” said Oliver.
“It will be something that not only connects people, but will be interesting to look at and live around. The bridge would also be a destination in its own right.”
When the floor was open to comments and questions, a great number of residents voiced their approval or dismissal of the plans, but all seemed unanimously impressed with the design itself”
“I just don’t see the point in spending all that money for a bridge like this in Gainsborough,” said one resident. “It looks great but we need more jobs and better services. Economically, what is it going to improve?”
Another resident added: “The riverside is not used to its full potential and this bridge would be an important part of that regeneration, and would hopefully bring retail interest like the Brayford Pool in Lincoln.”