FINALLY RESTORE: Council ‘fairly confident’ of Tyne Bridge funding
Rust on the Tyne Bridge, Newcastle, Image: NCJ Media
Council bosses are “fairly confident” of securing government money to finally restore the Tyne Bridge to its rightful state, despite seeing one bid fail last month.
The famous crossing’s rusted and decaying state has been a cause of major concern for years, with its last major maintenance having taken place a full 20 years ago.
There was disappointment in October as an £18.5m request to pay for the bulk of a full refurbishment of the North East icon was excluded from Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget.
That rejection from the Levelling Up Fund leaves local leaders to urgently pursue other avenues to secure the cash, with a separate £40m bid to restore both the bridge and the entire Central Motorway still outstanding after being lodged with the Department for Transport in summer 2019.
Tom Warburton, Newcastle City Council’s interim chief executive, said on Wednesday that he was “fairly confident that we will get there with the Tyne Bridge and we are continuing to lobby and work with the government to get those approved through other routes.”
It is hoped that the bridge’s restoration, which would take two to three years, can be completed in time for its centenary in 2028.
The upgrade would include its repainting, resurfacing the road, steelwork and concrete repairs, stonework and masonry fixes, waterproofing, and bridge joint replacement, and more.
There have been warnings that a failure to complete the overdue maintenance work could mean the Tyne Bridge will not be capable of carrying the 70,000 vehicles which cross it every day, with city council leader Nick Forbes having previously suggested that authorities might have to “ “take the bridge out of action for cars” and turn it into a bus lane.
Two of Newcastle’s bids to the Levelling Up Fund were successful, however – with around £40m secured to build a new leisure centre in West Denton and to make major improvements in the city centre, at the beloved Grainger Market and Old Eldon Square.
Speaking at a meeting of the City Futures Board on Wednesday, Mr Warburton said the Budget had been “pretty successful” for Newcastle and that it had been a “very good result” to get two of the city’s four Levelling Up bids approved.
The other failed bid was to pay for a £15.5m facility in Walker that would collect sediment that builds up in the Tyne and could eventually make it impossible for large ships to sail on, plus a new £4.5m employment aimed at attracting a new offshore energy or subsea-focused manufacturer to Tyneside.
Mr Warburton, who is temporarily in the civic centre’s top job following the departure of Pat Ritchie, said the council would await feedback from the government about that project and seek to resubmit it to future Levelling Up Fund rounds.
Words: Daniel Holland, Local Democracy Reporter
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