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CHOCOLATE PATH: Footbridge so corroded it could collapse

CHOCOLATE PATH: Footbridge so corroded it could collapse

Image: LDRS

A bridge on the Chocolate Path is so corroded it could collapse and cause the loss of the Floating Harbour, with potentially fatal consequences, according to the council.

The Chocolate Path beside Cumberland Road has been closed since January last year when it collapsed along with 40m of the embankment wall and Heritage railway into the River Avon New Cut.

Work to repair the path, stabilise the road and put in place a bus gate to stop inbound traffic getting to the Bedminster bridges is already underway, with reopening due next summer.

Now Bristol City Council has identified that a footbridge on the Chocolate Path is among nearly a dozen structures in the city’s man-made waterways in “critical” need of repair or replacement in the next few years at a cost of around £14.35million.

The council will replace the bridge next year at a cost of £1million, and will keep a close eye on other aging structures in the Floating Harbour, New Cut and Feeder Canal over the next two years using a further £1.5million approved by the ruling Labour administration last night (March 9).

The Chocolate Path bridge comprises a steel beam supporting the path where it crosses over the sluices from the Floating Harbour at Underfall Yard to the River Avon New Cut.

But the steel girder is so corroded it could collapse, according to a report to Tuesday night’s cabinet meeting.

The sluices, which date from the 1800s, control the amount of water and silt in the Floating Harbour.

According to the cabinet report: “Probable resultant failure of this steel girder will potentially result in extensive damage to Underfall sluice outfall resulting in a flooding event or possibly the loss of the Floating Harbour, due to water loss into the New Cut river.

“Collapse of the structure poses risk to life, reputational risk, financial risk and loss of function of Underfall sluice gates.”

Not replacing it would also have meant that the council would have been unable to reopen the Chocolate Path in July 2022, as planned, the report added.

The embankment walls along the Floating Harbour, New Cut and Feeder Canal are around 200 years old.

The waterways were built in the early 1800s to stop ships on the River Avon being grounded at high tide, allowing them to stay afloat while loading and unloading their cargo.

The council has found 68 parts of the aging retaining walls are in a “critical” or “serious” structural condition, meaning they have already partly or entirely failed or could fail within the next five years.

Ten need repairing or replacing over the next two to five years as a high priority to prevent possible boat damage, major transport disruption or loss of life, the cabinet report says.

The council will use £500,000 of the funding approved last night to immediately start monitoring their status, and £1m to undertake further structural and geotechnical investigations.

Cabinet also approved an extra £2.5million needed to complete the work to stabilise Cumberland Road last night, taking the total cost of the project to £11.5million.

Members also approved a £249million plan to protect Bristol from future catastrophic flooding.

The proposal for new defences along the River Avon, which drew strong public support during consultation at the end of last year, includes ideas for new public spaces like the stepped terracing on the riverside along London’s South Bank.

The council has identified up to £123million “in principle” to pay for the first phase of the plan, which has an estimated cost of £216million.

An Environment Agency spokesperson told cabinet members the agency was committed to helping the council find the funding needed to deliver the plan.

The local authority has spent just under £1.1million on the project so far. That cost includes an extra £475,000 on top of £600,000 approved in 2014, and covers the development of the strategic business case and the public consultation.

The council plans to apply for £2million in local levy grant funding to support the development of an outline business case.

Words: Amanda Cameron, Local Democracy Reporter


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