Footbridge consultation

WEST Sussex County Council are currently going through the consultation process in respect of a replacement for the footbridge that links thousands of Shoreham Beach residents with Shoreham town.

The present bridge was built in 1921. It is concrete, and an eyesore, so there is now a once-in-several-generations opportunity to replace it with a well-considered bridge that meets the budget limitations and will retain its looks over the years.

However, the display in Adur Council’s the Civic Centre in Shoreham, inviting the public to provide their views on the proposal, appears to offer only one design, available in only one material - concrete.

Apart from how badly concrete ages, it is a material five times heavier than steel and therefore requires more or bigger supports located on the river bed and is also environmentally unfriendly (very energy intensive; can’t be recycled).

The Shoreham Society recently commissioned an independent review from Techniker, one of the country’s leading structural engineers, and this confirmed our belief that a steel structure would be no more expensive than a concrete one and would not present higher maintenance costs over time.

Steel is not only lighter, but would enable a slimmer and more elegant design, and can be recycled at the end of its life.

Although the solid handrails proposed may allow better views than did the old footbridge, they are limiting for children and wheelchair users and require persistent maintenance.

The Shoreham Society suggested toughened glass not only to provide views, but also to make users clearly visible and discourage the anti-social behaviour that, we are told, occurs more frequently here than anywhere else in Shoreham. It is also virtually maintenance-free. Glass, however, is not mentioned in the display: one option that the public are not being invited to consider.

The opening section is used only four or five times a year, but the swing bridge proposed is much more elaborate than is required and therefore more expensive than it need be. It also requires a large housing for the machinery that sits heavily in the middle and features a mast that competes with the view of the church tower and divides the walkway.

Our recommendation was a simple lifting bridge, which is much cheaper and simpler, demands no structure above the deck and offers lower maintenance costs.

We are sure from our own research and WSCC’s figures that a cheaper more elegant bridge could be achieved within the time and budget by using a more appropriate steel structure and lifting bridge while utilising the savings on a better balustrade and deck finish.

These views were made known to WSCC early in the consultation process, but seem to have been discounted for reasons that are not entirely clear.

Robin Spence BA DipARC (Cantab) R.I.B.A. and Howard Carter MA(RCA) R.I.B.A.

The Shoreham Society