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Haverfordwest ‘Instagram-friendly’ footbridge plans sent back to Cabinet

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

PLANS for an ‘Instagram-friendly’ new footbridge in the centre of Haverfordwest, are to be discussed further by senior councillors after a successful ‘call-in’ by Pembrokeshire’s Conservative group and the IPG group.

At the March 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 group leader 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.”

A similar ‘call-in’ was also made by the Independent Group.

At the March 26 meeting of the council’s services overview and scrutiny committee, the ‘call-in’ request was backed, the matter returning to a special meeting of the county council’s Cabinet, taking place on April 4.

At the March meeting, members heard 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.

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This leaves council costs at £7.7m for the overall project, and £600,000 for the bridge and associated works, a report for members said, 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.

Papers published ahead of the April 4 meeting outline the history, and the case, for the new bridge, with a 2021 inspection report describing it as in “fair to poor condition,” adding that, while the steel members are still in serviceable condition, there are underside elements with “extensive corrosion throughout”.

The report says, in addition to the inspection details, it was viewed as “too narrow to accommodate increased pedestrian flow and does not meet current inclusive accessibility standards”.

It added: “The extension of the asset’s lifespan was therefore considered not to provide value for money and was discounted as a viable option for these reasons, and reported accordingly at planning stage.  If the bridge were removed from the scope of the Heart of Pembrokeshire project, it would need refurbishment work, or replacement, in the short to medium-term, just to provide a like for like basic footbridge”.

The report also says: “There is a risk that expenditure to refurbish the existing bridge would not be eligible for LUF grant funding.  A review of the ‘Benefit Cost Ratio’ would be required as well as ministerial approval on a project adjustment request.

“This will be both timely and costly and would impact on the timescale of the project to deliver against tight grant deadlines. Unless funded from external sources this cost would need to be funded 100 per cent by the council. Any costs greater than the approved matched funding would be an additional pressure on the capital financing costs; this is at a time when financial resources are already under immense financial pressure.”