Fringe Box



At Last A New Footbridge For Millmead Lock

Published on: 9 Nov, 2015
Updated on: 10 Nov, 2015

After an eight-year stand-off between the National Trust (NT) and Guildford Borough Council (GBC), a new Millmead Lock footbridge, at the back of the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, should be open on Friday December 11, in time for the Christmas shopping rush.

Millmead Footbridge 2015 1

The new bridge before painting and fitting.

John Gibson from the National Trust, which owns the bridge as part of the River Wey Navigations, said: “The new bridge will be a vast improvement on the original and will meet current access standards.

“It will be wider, as we have been able to remove a rather unsightly redundant utility pipe that used to cross the lock cut beside the bridge, and will provide space for viewing activity in the lock while not impeding pedestrians crossing the bridge.”

Without the bridge in place it is not possible to operate Millmead Lock and therefore both the lock and the footpath are closed for the duration of the works.  Work started on November 2 and is planned to be completed by the end of December 11 when both the path and the lock will reopen.

Rust in the old footbridge.

Rust in the old footbridge.

Mr Gibson continued: “The National Trust apologises for any inconvenience caused while the bridge is replaced and the path and lock closed. There is never a good time to undertake work such as this but it is planned to have the path open again well before the Christmas shopping rush.”

The new bridge will be around two metres wide and will cost £150,000, paid for by the National Trust from River Wey Navigations’ reserves. The design was approved by the NT architectural panel and signed off by the NT leadership team for London and South East Region.

Artist impression of the new footbridge in place in front of Millmead Lock.

Artist impression of the new footbridge in place.

Mr Gibson said that it was not possible to install a temporary bridge for pedestrians while the new bridge is being constructed because: “…the site is to confined and both access ramps leading to the bridge have also to be dug up and replaced so no safe access for pedestrians.”

He added: “The contractors have put in a temporary bridge to allow them to move plant, machinery and materials back and forth across the lock but note suitable for public use.”

As for the utility pipe: “We don’t know what purpose it served. None of the utility companies contacted said it belonged to them so we drilled a hole in it to see what came out – nothing.  On that basis we took it as being redundant and are removing it.”

In 2007, Guildford Borough Council (GBC), suspecting the bridge was unsafe, called in Surrey County Council to carry out a survey. As a result, the bridge was promptly condemned and removed.

An impasse ensued between NT and GBC. The trust was told by the council that, as the bridge was in a conservation area, approval for the design of a replacement was required.

Much design work by the NT was carried out which included the input of the nationally esteemed NT architectural panel. Designs were submitted in keeping with other similar bridges on the River Wey.

The application was supported by the GBC conservation officer and Cllr Caroline Reeves (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas) but Cllr Roy Hogben, the “design and heritage champion” at the time, did not like it; he felt it was too simple and needed to be more decorative.

A concern of the NT was that a more decorative design would incur more cost. Nonetheless, Cllr Hogben insisted an amended design was drawn up which included the National Trust logo.

But the resulting design was no longer acceptable to the regional conservation department of the NT and it refused to allow the local branch to proceed. 
GBC then advised NT if it wished to replace the bridge, which the council had removed without permission, a new application would be required.

A spokesman for the National Trust wrote at the time: “Unfortunately, we no longer have any funding currently in place to replace the existing bridge – price tag in the region of £100k due to difficult access – nor do we have resources to put together a new planning application at this time.  NT best estimate now for revised project, subject to funding being available, is 2011 or 2012.

“The current bridge, while not pretty, is functional and is inspected annually to ensure it is fit for purpose. Unfortunately, GBC actions have led to this unnecessary delay but we are a charity with limited funds available for such work.”



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Responses to At Last A New Footbridge For Millmead Lock

  1. Mary Bedforth Reply

    November 9, 2015 at 10:31 pm

    Eight years! Amazing.

    Hope it won’t take that long before replacement of the railings bordering the millstream between the Millbrook car park and the theatre.

    The loose metal lengths of tubing have been disappearing from the uprights one by one over the last year. Are they in the water due to vandalism?

    There is now a danger of a child being able to run through into the stream.

    The wooden railings by the footbridge near the rowing club are decrepit and missing in some places. A child could fall through on to the concrete walkway below. A better design and construction are needed.

    Also, the footbridge and the entrance gate are showing signs of rust and need attention and some coats of paint.

    A poor impression of Guildford is given to people arriving via the A281 to the town.

  2. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    November 11, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    How can I describe this footbridge?

    A footbridge that is so unattractive and that has no character at all. Yet it sits within a conservation area and a pleasant riverside and could have been much more aesthetically designed.

    Credit I suppose is due to the National Trust for taking eight years to produce this eyesore when the Town Centre Masterplan is attempting to make Guildford an attractive place to visit.

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