The divided town of Tadcaster is looking forward to a “year of renaissance” in 2017, 12 months after its historic bridge dramatically crumbled into the River Wharfe when it was hit by a deluge of flood water.
A year on from the Boxing Day floods that swept across northern England, the North Yorkshire town is continuing to struggle as construction workers work around the clock to rebuild the 18th century bridge and rejoin the two halves of the community.
After the collapse on December 29, residents were told the bridge would be completed within 12 months, but a series of setbacks has seen the reopening postponed to the end of January.
As the town looks ahead to the new year, the bridge remains covered in scaffolding, machinery and construction workers.
But councillor Chris Metcalfe is confident that the reopening date of January 27 will be met, despite describing the scene as looking like a “bomb site”.
He said: “I think if anybody walked up to it now and looked at it, they would say it’s not going to be finished for ages. But I’m assured it will be completed by January 27.”
He added: “Everybody’s got their fingers crossed very tightly at this time.”
Mr Metcalfe - who is among those having to take the 10-mile detour to visit relatives on the opposite side of the river - said the town is planning a community bridge-opening event on January 29.
It is hoped the celebration will be the first of many, with the town being chosen to host the start of the second stage of the Tour de Yorkshire, an event likely to attract thousands of spectators.
Mr Metcalfe said: “The bridge reopening will be an absolutely extraordinary day for Tadcaster, a good start for 2017.
“2017 will be the year of renaissance for Tadcaster, the celebration of a wider bridge, a safer bridge and the Tour de Yorkshire.”
He added: “From the day we experienced the floods, there has been a great coming together of the people of Tadcaster.
“Once the bridge is open and we get into the spring of the year and the Tour de Yorkshire, while there will still be a scar on the bridge, people will be moving on at a tremendous rate.
“We’re on the road to recovery at the end of the day. This is the start of the future.”
In the main street of the town, Mr Metcalfe’s hopes of a renaissance still appear to be some time from being realised, with a number of buildings remaining empty and children playing football on the car-free roads.
Some businesses not directly affected by the flooding have closed down due to lack of footfall since the bridge collapse.
But Mr Metcalfe is optimistic that flooded businesses will be up and running again by the time the Tour de Yorkshire arrives on April 29.
He said: “Everybody is focused on getting Tadcaster back on its feet.
“(The businesses) are working in a cul-de-sac, very difficult for people to access them, those businesses have struggled and will continue to struggle but are getting by.
“We need to create enough activity in the town in 2017 to encourage people to visit.”
He continued: “Some of the shops still haven’t opened yet, they’ve still got workmen in. Hopefully by the time the Tour de Yorkshire comes, all the shops will be reoccupied and everybody will be doing well.
“If we roll forward six months, we will have a very vibrant high street.”
But pub owner-manager Nick Crowley is less confident.
He said: “It’s been awful, it’s been tragic to be quite honest.
“Just before the floods Tadcaster was improving remarkably, we’d just got a Costa, Subway, Cooplands, it was actually beginning to improve, there were a lot of suits on the street at lunchtime.
“Now it’s just taken us back about 10 years.”
Mr Crowley was the landlord of the Coach and Horses when the floods hit Tadcaster.
He describes spending Boxing Day pumping flood water out of the pub and being evacuated on December 29 due to fears of a gas explosion after the bridge collapsed.
He said: “It was quite a traumatic period of time.”
But he does share some of Mr Metcalfe’s optimism for the future and has used the historic event to his advantage - buying a closed-down pub and reopening it as The Broken Bridge.
He said: “It was something we needed to do to mark the year. We will have an official opening when the bridge reopens and we will be making a big thing of the Tour de Yorkshire.”
Mr Crowley continued: “I’ve had one or two negative comments, people saying ‘why do you want to remember that?’ or ‘we don’t want to be reminded of that time’.
“A lot of people say ‘what are you going to call it when the bridge is back up?’ but I won’t be changing the name. It’s history now. Or it will be.”