THE former leader of Warrington Borough Council (WBC) has described the task of saving the town's transporter bridge as 'exceptionally difficult' but admits action to do so could be highly beneficial.

John Gartside, who was in charge of the council from 1992-2002, backed the plan for two new bridges in the town in February to allow Warrington to become a 'major player'.

But the fight to save the grade two listed construction, situated across the River Mersey, close to Bank Quay station, has also caught the attention of Mr Gartside.

"It is an exceptionally difficult situation for the council to have and I think it needs some kind of consensus decision - they have the responsibility for it," he said.

"Anything that can help the town is great and I am sure it could be a good thing for Warrington."

However, Mr Gartside admits the planned construction of two new crossings in the town must take priority - a view which has been echoed by council officials, with funding being highlighted as a serious limitation for any maintenance work on the transporter bridge to take shape.

He added: "I would go for the infrastructure stuff first as that is what the town needs and is a big responsibility."

With Government funding for WBC decreasing, finance from the council is unlikely but Cllr Steve Parish (LAB - Bewsey and Whitecross) has raised the possibility of securing a grant to set maintenance work underway.

"Council finances are being cut by central Government so we'd obviously need to look for external heritage funds to maintain the bridge," he said.

"Its importance for industrial history is clear but many people would think there are other priorities at this time.

"An independent support group could well help build a case for a Lottery Fund grant."

Despite the struggles, the campaign to save the iconic site is continuing to gather momentum, with last Thursday's public meeting at the Waterside, on Park Boulevard, attracting around 30 supporters.

A Facebook page set up in 2013 by Appleton resident, Margaret Ingham, to save the site from rotting away and collapsing into the Mersey has also now reached 720 'likes' but the goal remains to get the council on board.

"I do care about Warrington and think that it is a shame – we need to engage with the council," she said.

"The bridge is the only rail transporter bridge in the world and we want the council to support it.

"One objective of the council’s Waterfront plan was to maximise its current assets."

A ‘community-based approach' was highlighted at the meeting, with one attendee putting forward a suggestion that money needs to be spent to paint, as well as ‘get rid of all the vegetation’ surrounding the bridge.

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