Sutton Harbour Holdings plc is calling for the Environment Agency to meet its contractual obligations in supporting necessary repairs to the Sutton Harbour pedestrian footbridge, in a bid to bring the bridge back into use more quickly for the benefit of local businesses.
The custom-built footbridge installed 23 years ago crosses Sutton Lock in Plymouth and is an integral part of the lock system, which is designed to prevent any flooding in the Sutton Harbour, Barbican, Coxside and Bretonside areas of the city.
Under an agreement dating back to 1998, the management and maintenance responsibilities for the lock gates and the footbridge are shared between the Environment Agency (EA) and Sutton Harbour Holdings plc (SHH).
Because the bridge forms part of the lock gates, only EA engineers are able to carry out repairs, to ensure that the validity and effectiveness of Sutton Lock is not compromised and there is no impact on marine traffic, as well as water levels in the harbour.
Following a failure of the bridge turntable earlier this year, the EA commissioned engineering reports which were only provided to SHH in August. On receipt of these reports, SHH sought an urgent meeting with the EA to discuss repairing the footbridge. In spite of the obvious urgency of this issue, the earliest meeting date offered by the EA was mid-October, and to date, the EA has not been willing to discuss a schedule for the necessary repairs. Sutton Harbour Holdings plc is now taking legal advice to try to resolve matters.
A spokesman for Sutton Harbour Holdings plc said: “We have been surprised by the approach of the Environment Agency to repairing the footbridge. On the last occasion that the footbridge bearing failed, SHH and the EA were able to work collaboratively to ensure a swift repair.
“We are concerned about the impact of the bridge’s closure on our key tenant businesses based locally. Along with many of our stakeholders, we are eager to see the footbridge brought back into service quickly, to benefit both visitors to the harbour and local residents.
“We are unable to move forward with planning these repairs however, as the Environment Agency has maintenance responsibility for the structure, and the EA engineers who instructed the tests have removed the failed bridge parts for further analysis. Despite our best efforts to secure a quick resolution, the EA was only prepared to meet a few weeks ago, and we are now being forced to seek legal advice to resolve this issue.”
Earlier this year, Sutton Harbour Holdings plc launched and subsidised a ferry service to help people cross between the historic Barbican Quarter and the Fishing Quarter to reach Rockfish restaurant and the National Marine Aquarium whilst the bridge was closed during the peak summer season.
The Sutton Harbour Ferry ran until the end of October, operated by Silverline Cruises, but this service has now closed for winter.
A walking route around the harbour is accessible via the Harbour Heritage Trail with a footpath circling around East Quay and North Quay (see map below).