Home » Conservative group call-in for ‘Instagram-friendly’ footbridge project in Haverfordwest
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Conservative group call-in for ‘Instagram-friendly’ footbridge project in Haverfordwest

The ‘instagram-friendly’ ‘signature bridge’ plans submitted as part of the Haverfordwest Footbridge and Western Quayside Phase 2 plans (pic: Atkins Ltd)

A ‘CALL-IN’ on plans for an ‘Instagram-friendly’ new footbridge in the centre of Haverfordwest, made by Pembrokeshire’s Conservative group, is to be heard next week.

At the March 11 meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet, members awarded the contract for the Haverfordwest footbridge and Western Quayside Phase 2 project.

The signature bridge scheme, in the Haverfordwest’s conservation area, also includes a ‘plaza’ public realm reconfiguration and enhancement; and repair, renewal and refurbishment of the former Cleddau Foundry building.

It forms part of the ‘Heart of Pembrokeshire’ regeneration project, which was previously awarded a Levelling Up Fund grant.

Concerns about the bridge – and potential costs – have previously been raised, and the design of the new bridge has previously been labelled an ‘Instagrammable’ bridge by Councillor Rhys Jordan when raising questions about costs associated with it.

The bridge is also part of a wider regeneration of the county town, which includes the ‘Ocky White’ Western Quayside retail development and a new transport interchange on the site of the former multi-storey car park.

In a letter to the administration, the Welsh Conservative group, led by Councillor Di Clements, asked for the decision to award the contract to be scrutinised further saying that “given its sizeable cost estimation and the high public interest in the matter, the Welsh Conservative group believe that this decision deserves full and proper scrutiny at committee level.”

County Councillor Di Clements (Pic: Pembrokeshire County Council)

The call-in is to be heard at the council’s services overview and scrutiny committee meeting of March 26.

The Tory group call-in says: “In the Cabinet meeting on March 11, the Leader, Cllr Simpson said that “It would cost us more not to do this scheme, than it would to do it,” however, we are not aware of any figures, quotes or reports in the public realm of how much it would cost to simply maintain the current bridge and this statement should be further tested by members to ensure it is an accurate one.”

“Additionally, following a significant utilisation in reserves and a lower than expected council tax agreed by council on March 7, there appears to have been no discussion as to whether the use of council funds remain affordable and members of the group are concerned that budget savings throughout the 2024-25 financial year may not be met – based on previous budget out-runs from the cabinet – and that this assurance should be given and explored in the Call-In meeting.”

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Council Leader David Simpson (Pic: Pembrokeshire County Council)

Cllr Aled Thomas, the Conservative Group Spokesman for Finance said: “It is deeply concerning that this Labour- leaning administration is hell-bent on pursuing this vanity project, all while cutting services and raising taxes for Pembrokeshire’s residents.”

He added: “In the tough financial times we are facing, the council should ensure that every penny spent is on essential services, not pet projects like this.”

Cllr Aled Thomas (Pic: Pembrokeshire County Council)

Cllr Rhys Jordan, the group’s spokesman on tourism, said: “Our county is renowned for its stunning landscapes and historical landmarks, such as the majestic St David’s Cathedral, historic Pembroke Castle and the picturesque Tenby Harbour. These sites are not just visually breath-taking; they are part of our heritage and a major draw for tourists from around the globe.”

“While the idea of adding another potential attraction with an “Instagrammable” bridge might seem appealing to some, we must critically assess our priorities and the true needs of our residents.”

Rhys Jordan won St Florence and St Mary Out for the Conservatives

Documents before the March 26 meeting say the cost of the bridge project amounts to £5.7m out of an overall Heart of Pembrokeshire budget of £25.4m; of that money, external funding of £17.7m (70 per cent) has been secured for the overall project and £5.1m (90 per cent) secured for the bridge project.

This leaves council costs at £7.7m for the overall project, and £600,000 for the bridge and associated works, the report for members says, with costs to date for the two projects amounting to £3.9m for the Heart of Pembrokeshire project, and £1.1m for the bridge only.

At the March 11 meeting, Council Leader David Simpson said: “The existing bridge has come to the end of its life and that is obvious to anybody that walks over it and to replace it would cost substantially more than what we’re being asked to contribute – 10 per cent of.

“So, I really cannot understand when you get people, members, who do not seem to understand the finances of it, it would cost us more not to do this scheme than to do it; we are getting a really good deal out of it.”

He added: “If we cancelled the actual bridge now we would lose the 90 per cent funding, it would cost us more than for a really nice bridge in the centre of town, and to me is an asset to the community.”

Options available to the March 26 committee include upholding the Cabinet decision, or referring it back to Cabinet for reconsideration.