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  • Parish Clerk

National Trust Bridge Update

Update from National Trust 22nd May 2023

The main focus for the month has been that we’ve determined and sent our specifications for the new bridge to three companies, and we expect to hear back from them in the next few weeks.

This can be summarised that we’re looking to create a new permanent bridge that is simple in design and that fits in with the character of this internationally protected landscape.

  • We want the bridge to sit low in the landscape to minimise visual impact, whilst still accommodating the passage of canoes and dinghies during normal tide levels.

  • The bridge will need to be robust enough to withstand the effects of 1 in 100-year flood events.

  • It will need to stretch approximately 20 metres to allow sufficient bank erosion over time and not impede or alter the creek’s tidal flows.

  • The bridge will be predominantly constructed from timber but could be steel supported with hand-dug foundations.

  • It will need to withstand approximately 30,000 to 40,000 pedestrian users a year.

  • We’re planning for it to be accessible and designed to take the weight of multiple families enjoying crabbing activities at the same time.

  • We’re also wanting something that can be easily maintained in the future.

We will need to undertake topographical and ecology surveys to help further inform the bridge design, but our requirements give a good steer as to what we will need.

As well as finalising our specifications for the new bridge and engaging companies who can help us, our conversations with key stakeholders have continued.

We’ve been talking with Norfolk County Council about the application to designate a path on the NT land, just north of the bridge, to help us understand the technical nature of that process.

We’ve also been talking with Natural England about our work in the area, the bridge, nature conservation and access.

We mentioned in our last update that we’ve been working with the RNLI to put new signage in place, we’re also about to contact new members of the Coastguard, to ensure they’re aware of the current situation regarding Stiffkey Bridge and our plans for its replacement in the future.

Response from Stiffkey Parish Council 26th May 2023

Many thanks for your latest update of 22nd May. We are very grateful for the time you have spent on this, and understand this is an extra demand on you, but we think it is important to keep the local community updated through this medium.

We were pleased to hear you have approached three companies with specifications for a new bridge, and for the bullet points detailing the expected format of the same. We do need clarification however, because you go on to say - in apparent contradiction - that further surveys are required before the design can be finalised.

Could you please explain who will carry out these surveys - the design companies as part of their quotation process, or third parties? Is it the case the design cannot be fully finalised until they have taken place?

Presumably the design and quotation selected from these three instructions will form the basis of your planning application? We were told in several communications that June was your deadline for submitting the planning application for the bridge. You tell us that you expect to hear from the companies instructed to quote ‘in the next few weeks’. Have you given those companies a deadline to align with your own, and if so what is it please? We feel there is still no clear timeline emerging for this project, and with each communication the conclusion moves further away.

We wondered if you have enough material on bridge specification now - before receiving the quotes - to make an application for outline planning permission, or pre-planning advice, to help speed the final outcome?

Apart from Norfolk County Council you haven’t provided any update to progress with the list of permissions provided by Paul on 3rd April 2023. Indeed, we appear to have a new consultee in Natural England. Could we please have an update as to which others have been approached and the outcome?

We are most grateful you have improved signage and publicised tide times. These are useful contributions to safety.

We note your engagement with RNLI and the Coastguard, but their role is to respond to emergency situations when they happen. There is still no means of exit from across the creek which the bridge crossed during a high incoming tide. Have you considered a temporary solution as an emergency means of escape, or considered providing wardens during periods of particular vulnerability for the public eg school holidays and high tide times that coincide with high visitor numbers?

Has it been considered having a written and broadcast media campaign to highlight the missing bridge and consequent safety issues? We think it would be useful to bring it to a wider audience, as not everyone takes the time to read signs.

We are grateful for your update, but as a Council, and on behalf of all our residents and visitors, it is not unreasonable to expect greater clarity and a defined timeline. We are working on devising a list of key areas for update to hopefully streamline matters for you. We look forward to your next update in June, and would advise our next Parish meeting is 31st July when we hope we can also hear further from you beforehand.

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