A scheme to dismantle and rebuild an ancient stone bridge looks set to be considered to a Government minister after leading conservation bodies said the proposal could cause significant and unjustified damage to the nationally important structure.
The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) and The Council for British Archaeology (CBA) have objected to North Yorkshire County Council’s plan to safeguard the future of Skeeby Bridge, near Richmond, which as part of the A6108 connects Richmond with Scotch Corner.
Since its original construction in the 14th century, the bridge has undergone alterations and enlargement throughout the 17th and 18th century, including by Harewood House architect John Carr, to support the increasing population and trade which also saw the architecture of the bridge adopt a classical style.
Conservationists say the Grade II listed bridge displays hundreds of years of history through repairs and changes starting in the medieval era, but the latest alterations could ruin the structure.
The CBA said the proposed repair works had the potential to cause unjustified harm to the significance of the structure. SPAB said while it was in principle supportive of an application which seeks maintain, repair and safeguard the future of the bridge, the outlined project posed “a significant risk to the character and loss of historic fabric”.
Criticising the council’s preparations for the work, SPAB said it had failed to produce a structural engineers report which identified the specific structural issues and a key document featured “only an annotation on a 1:200 scale plan which reads ‘rebuild’”.
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A SPAB spokesman said: “The extent of rebuilding proposed is significant, has not been fully justified, and does not include a methodology which outlines how the rebuilding will protect the layers of history and the specification of materials for any replacement stones or mortars.”
A county council spokesman said Richmondshire District Council’s planning and conservation team had made no objections after considering the impact of the proposal on the listed building.
He added the scheme had been considered the most viable in terms of highway safety and efficiency, whilst proposing to salvage materials where possible and cause minimal harm to the structure, visual appearance and local amenity.
Justifying the scheme, the council spokesman said the authority ” has a duty to provide a safe and efficient road network, which includes river crossing and bridges” and the bridge needed repairs due to “impact, weathering and previously poor techniques of repair”.
Recommending the scheme be approved, the county council said while harm would potentially be caused to the bridge by the proposed works, the safety of road users and local residents using the bridge needed to be set against the historic value of the bridge when considering if the changes were acceptable.
If the county council’s planning committee approves the scheme, government regulations require where national amenity societies have lodged an objection that it be referred to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government for determination.