North Yorkshire County Council is overseeing a pioneering shift away from traditional timber and steel bridges to install crossings that are made from a state-of-the-art material which is used in boat and car manufacturing.
The new footbridges are made out of a Fibre Reinforced Polymer (FRP) material, which prolongs the structures’ life for as long as 120 years – almost six times the expected life of a steel crossing.
North Yorkshire is the only county to be home to two National Parks covering the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales, as well as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty for the Howardian Hills and Nidderdale.
But the county council’s executive member for access, Coun Don Mackenzie, stressed that the footbridges would be installed to blend in with their surroundings so that they do not affect vistas across North Yorkshire’s countryside.
He added: “There are many practical benefits in the use of FRP for certain of our bridges. It provides a very strong structure but is much lighter than steel. It is easier to handle and lift, saving time and money on construction costs, especially in remote areas.
“We will continue to ensure that each new or replacement bridge is in keeping with the local environment. We are confident that the FRP bridges will stand the test of time and provide appealing structures for everyone who uses them.”
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The bridges are made in Holland and have been used on nationwide design projects, and while some firms in England use the material, none currently supply the type of single span bridges which the county council needs.
A total of six bridges have been introduced after the first FRP crossing in North Yorkshire was installed in Bird Ridding, at Leyburn, in 2016. Trees had damaged the previous lightweight steel frame footbridge and it became rotten with the supporting joints severely damaged.
The most recent FRP footbridge has been installed in Low Faggergill, near Whaw, as due to flood damage the span of the new bridge was so great a timber footbridge was not viable. The FRP option was deemed cheaper than a steel beam bridge and its longevity was a deciding factor.
Coun Mackenzie said: “The first bridge in Bird Ridding was well-received by the local community as each bridge is designed to suit the location.
“It shows that we are being forward-thinking in sourcing these future-proof bridges which fit very well in North Yorkshire’s conservation areas.”
The bridges cost, on average, £30,000 and about £180,000 has been spent installing FRP crossings during the past six years.