'Levelling-up' fund to help pay for Whorlton bridge reopening
By Nicky Carter - Reporter
URGENT repairs to a historic suspension bridge, closed to traffic for more than a year, could be bankrolled through a £4billion “levelling up” fund.
Whorlton Bridge was shut to motorists in August 2019 after a routine safety inspection showed there was a “safety defect”. The bridge, a scheduled monument, initially remained open to pedestrians and cyclists.
However, a full closure of the bridge was announced in December after investigations suggested the structure was too weak to allow residents to walk and cycle across.
In September Teesdale’s MP, Dehenna Davison, appealed to Durham County Council to publish a report on the bridge’s closure so repairs could be done as quickly as possible.
She highlighted the problems residents of Whorlton and the surrounding villages face during a debate in the House of Commons on Monday, February 1, and called on Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to meet her and discuss the issue.
She said: “Durham County Council has the funding available for the necessary testing of the bridge’s components, but there were concerns about funding availability for the repairs.
“Will the Secretary of State meet me and council officers to help find the funding solution for the repairs of the nationally significant bridge?”
Mr Shapps replied: “Concerns over Whorlton Bridge, I think, will be very well addressed by the £4billion levelling up fund, and I look forward to hearing from her [Ms Davison] when that fund becomes available.
“I would be very happy to meet up with her myself or arrange for the roads minister to do the same.”
Until the bridge was shut vehicles under three tons could cross and the closure has meant many residents don’t have a direct route across the River Tees.
Whorlton resident Mary Statnsy, said: “Residents of Whorlton, Wycliffe and beyond are very encouraged to hear that our MP has again brought up the issue of repairing Whorlton Bridge in parliament and that the minister has responded by indicating that the project should be covered by the £4billion levelling up fund, set aside by this government.
“We are very grateful to Dehenna for her tenacity and commitment to the matter of repairing this historic suspension bridge.”