THE GOVERNMENT has pledged £3.3m to re-build Tadcaster Bridge and provide a temporary footbridge while work is carried out.
The new funding will enable North Yorkshire County Council to make urgent repairs to the 300-year-old listed bridge and structural assessments are already underway, despite the still challenging conditions at the site.
The funding is in addition to a £40 million pledge made by the Prime Minister last week to repair and improve flood defences following Storm Eva.
Announcing the funding, ministerial flood envoy for Yorkshire, Robert Goodwill said: “The floods in Yorkshire have been devastating for residents and businesses across the county and we have seen the partial collapse of the Tadcaster bridge split the community in two.
“We have made the repair of the bridge a national priority and I am pleased to announce that today we are providing £3.3 million to restore this important route. I am determined to ensure I do everything I can to help and this is an important step in keeping the recovery effort on track in Yorkshire.”
A pre-assembled temporary footbridge, built by a British firm, will give residents access to both sides of the river while construction of the main bridge is underway.
The announcement has been welcomed by North Yorkshire County Council, who earlier said repairs to bridge over the River Wharfe, damaged in the post-Christmas floods, could take up to 12 months.
Coun Carl Les, leader of North Yorkshire County Council said: “We are very pleased that the government are providing their support and that we have this early confirmation that the government will fund the cost of the work to reconnect the local community. We want to get life in Tadcaster back to normal as quickly as possible.”
Last Thursday the Duke of York stood on the banks of the River Wharfe as he examined the damage caused to the bridge, which dramatically collapsed on December 29.
Asked for his reaction, he said: “Saddened to see such a wonderful old bridge in a damaged state.
“But, what encourages me is that there is a plan - first of all for a footbridge, then to support the structure and then to get on and recover the stonework that’s underneath and get back to building it.
“But it’s going to take some time.”
The funding announcement comes the calls were made for the boss of the Environment Agency, who was on holiday in Barbados when the Boxing Day storms hit, to quit.
Sir Philip Dilley faced intense criticism after it emerged he was on holiday in Barbados over Christmas while parts of the north of England were faced with a deluge.
Conservative MP for Ribble Valley Nigel Evans and Labour’s York Central MP Rachael Maskell said his behaviour had been “appalling” and his position was now “untenable”.
Ms Maskell, told BBC Radio 4’s The Week In Westminster: “I think it’s quite untenable now. This is somebody who is paid £100,000 to oversee the Environment Agency and, at its time of need, he wasn’t here. And, therefore, I think it’s quite untenable that he does stay in his position now.”
The agency chairman said that his absence - while distracting focus from flood-affected communities - had not affected the agency’s performance but admitted he wished he had returned from the Caribbean sooner.
Mr Evans told the programme: “I think it’s appalling. I know he’s apologised but he said ‘I can’t guarantee there will never be a flood event while I’m away’.
“He clearly can’t guarantee that, but what he should guarantee is that when something like this happens - 16,000 homes - he gets on the next plane, gets a pair of wellies on, gets knee deep in there and works out what the Environment Agency should be doing differently to ensure the flood defences are much, much better.”
He added: “Yes I think he should go. Quite frankly, an amazing number of people gave up their Christmases ... and the guy in charge of the Environment Agency, overseeing how effective they are in dealing with these floods, thinks he can do it from Barbados. Well, I think he should spend more time in Barbados.”