Repair work to South Bridge in Oundle will strengthen the damaged structure while maintaining the fabric of the scheduled ancient monument.
Northamptonshire County Council is carrying out preliminary work next week from 19 May after English Heritage approved outline plans for the sensitive renovation to take place.
What does the work entail?
Preparations include undertaking trial holes to establish the nature of the materials of which the bridge is composed. This will help choose the strengthening method and the materials to be used.
The road over the bridge will be closed next week while the work takes place.
Cllr Heather Smith, deputy leader of the county council, said: “We’ve been liaising very closely with Oundle Town Council, East Northamptonshire District Council and English Heritage, which have played roles in co-ordinating this work.
“Because of the specialist nature of the structure it has been a challenge to find an approach that allows a robust engineering solution while not detracting from its historical importance.”
Steven North, Leader of East Northamptonshire Council, said: “We’re delighted work is starting on this historical gateway into Oundle. The bridge is a vital link into the town and once fully restored will help residents and visitors access the town and all the facilities that Oundle has to offer.”
How old is the bridge?
South Bridge Oundle was closed to traffic between March and December 2011 for urgent repairs following a water main fracture.
The bridge is a seven arch masonry structure, parts of which are thought to date back to medieval times. It is a scheduled ancient monument and is also Grade II listed.
At the time of the fracture there was evidence to suggest that sufficient damage had been caused to the make the bridge unsafe to traffic and an emergency road closure was put in place.
Following the repair of the water main a detailed inspection of the bridge was conducted. This revealed several defects within the arch directly below the fracture, including carriageway settlement and arch cracking.
The inspection also showed that several arches exhibited cracking and other stone work defects. A structural assessment was undertaken and this indicated that the bridge had a very low load carrying capacity.
What will the new weight limit be?
Since December 2011 a three tonne weight limit has been in place with bollards restricting the type of vehicle that can use the bridge.
Once the repairs are complete the bridge will have an 18 tonne weight limit at the request of Oundle Town Council. This will help prevent further damage to the structure.