Pro­test­ers fail to halt bridge plans

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - By Joel Lamy Twit­ter: @PTJoelLamy

Pro­test­ers hop­ing to block Peter­bor­ough City Council’ s plans to de­mol­ish Rhubarb Bridge suf­fered a set­back when coun­cil­lors voted to go-ahead with a £5mil­lion con­tract for the work.

An ex­ple­tive-filled tirade and com­par­isons to Gren­fell Tower were part of a lively de­bate as the fu­ture of Rhubarb Bridge was hammered out for two hours on Tuesday.

But ef­forts to over­turn a con­tract for a £5.5 mil­lion scheme to re­place the bridge were de­feated on party lines with the Con­ser­va­tives out­vot­ing the op­po­si­tion by six votes to five.

The big­gest drama of the evening came when a mem­ber of the public launched a tirade of swear words at cabi­net mem­ber

Cllr Peter Hiller be­fore storm­ing out.

Cllr Kim Aitken was also crit­i­cised for say­ing a fail­ure to de­mol­ish Rhubarb Bridge now could lead to dis­as­ter.

She said: “My con­cern is we hear on the news day-in day­out how there are tragedies hap­pen­ing be­cause of var­i­ous things that haven’t hap­pened. Coun­cils not do­ing this, coun­cils not do­ing that. Gren­fell Tow­ers.

“My con­cern would be what if some­thing hap­pens to this bridge in the time you would like to use for mak­ing a de­ci­sion with re­gards to this bridge?” Lib­eral Democrat group leader Cllr Nick Sand­ford said com­par­ing Rhubarb Bridge to Gren­fell was “quite de­plorable.”

The Peter­bor­ough City Council scru­tiny meet­ing was held to de­cide whether to uphold a call-in on the award­ing of a con­tract for the £5.5 mil­lion works to Skan­ska.

If the call-in had suc­ceeded Cllr Hiller would have had to re­con­sider whether to award the con­tract.

The pro­pos­als cur­rently be­ing con­sulted on by Peter­bor­ough City Council are for Tou­can cross­ings to be in­stalled at the round­about sep­a­rat­ing Lin­coln Road (by Broth­er­hood Re­tail Park) and Bourges Boule­vard, in­clud­ing on the A47 slip roads, with ex­tra lanes put in for mo­torists.

How­ever, af­ter a public out­cry the council is now look­ing to see if it can use the money al­lo­cated for the scheme to in­stead re­pair the bridge so it can re­main in place for a few more years, al­low­ing for time to seek funding for a di­rect re­place­ment.

That process will con­tinue de­spite the call-in fail­ing.

Cllr Hiller de­fended the de­ci­sion to agree to the Skan­ska con­tract on the same day the con­sul­ta­tion be­gan, ar­gu­ing that the scheme had al­ready been ap­proved by coun­cil­lors in last year’s Lo­cal Trans­port Plan and the 2017-18 bud­get, which was agreed in March.

He said: “My de­ci­sion was to award the con­tract to Skan­ska for a scheme al­ready ap­proved.

“I’m gen­uinely puz­zled to the ba­sis around a lot of the rhetoric around this call-in.”

He added that even if the bridge was re­placed there would need to be cross­ings put in while works were on­go­ing.

And he dis­missed safety con­cerns by stat­ing that at a sim­i­lar cross­ing at Bourges Boule­vard - sep­a­rat­ing Bridge Street and Lower Bridge Street - no­body had been “ploughed into” from his mem­ory.

Cllr Nick Sand­ford, who with Cllrs Dar­ren Fower and An­gus El­lis had ap­plied for the call-in, told mem­bers: “Let’s treat peo­ple as in­tel­li­gent hu­man be­ings. Let’s bring all the facts be­fore them and then let’s make a de­ci­sion.”

Cllr El­lis said Cllr Hiller’s de­ci­sion was not “fair and trans­par­ent,” while Cllr Ed Mur­phy, Labour group leader, added: “We need more in­for­ma­tion. The scru­tiny com­mit­tee needs a re­port to come back with some op­tions.”

Nyree Am­barchian, whose pe­ti­tion to save Rhubarb Bridge has been signed more than 5,000 times, ques­tioned the £20-30 mil­lion cost quoted by the council to re­place it with an­other bridge.

She said: “At the in­for­ma­tion event of­fi­cers said they’d been briefed to get rid of the bridge rather than think about the best pos­si­ble op­tions.

“At its best this scheme will put peo­ple off trav­el­ling by bike and foot. At its worst it puts peo­ple in dan­ger.”

Com­mit­tee mem­ber Cllr June Bull said: “This has been sub­ject to full public con­sul­ta­tion and passed by rel­e­vant all party scru­tiny meet­ings and by full council. So I’m fail­ing to see what has not been trans-

‘At its best this scheme will put peo­ple off trav­el­ling by bike and foot’

par­ent and what is not fair.”

But Labour mem­ber Richard Fer­ris said a fail­ure to ap­prove the call-in would be the “death of the pre­tence about the council be­ing com­mit­ted to sus­tain­able trans­port.”

Si­mon Machen, council cor­po­rate director for growth and re­gen­er­a­tion, said the cost of funding a new bridge would be the same as two or three pri­mary schools. He added that no ap­praisal of op­tions other than the cur­rent scheme had been pre­pared be­cause no scru­tiny com­mit­tee had ever asked for one.

‘I’m fail­ing to see what has not been trans­par­ent and what is not fair’

Cllr June Bull

Rhubarb Bridge

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