PEEL Ports is facing renewed pressure to carry out a £1.5 million paint job on Warrington’s swing bridges that are ‘dragging down’ the town.

The three sites owned by Peel – which cross the Manchester Ship Canal – are situated on Chester Road, London Road and Knutsford Road.

The company has committed to the refurbishment of the 125-year-old bridges.

It previously confirmed it would cost around £500,000 to repaint each one.

Warrington Guardian:

Stockton Heath swing bridge

During last week’s leader’s forum, council leader Cllr Russ Bowden (LAB – Birchwood) labelled the bridges as ‘unsightly’.

But he told residents that Town Hall chiefs have made progress with the port operator on the matter.

He said: “If you are not from Warrington and you are visiting, you are not getting a good impression of the town.

“We have made some progress, Peel have committed to doing work on the bridges.”

Cllr Bowden says it is crucial for the impact of the works to be ‘manageable’, potentially by keeping part of a bridge open while work takes place.

He also says Peel’s ‘starting point’ was about closing bridges for six months at a time and that this what the council is ‘negotiating’ with the company about.

Following talks with Peel and the council, Warrington South MP Faisal Rashid previously said the firm would be starting with the Stockton Heath site.

Warrington Guardian:

Stockton Heath swing bridge

But he expressed concerns over a potential six-month closure of the bridge during this time.

And it is a matter which Cllr Bowden is keeping a close eye on.

“Closing one of those bridges for six months would cause chaos,” he added.

Conservative Stockton Heath borough council candidate Steve Allcock says the swing bridges ‘have been left to fall into disrepair’.

In an open letter to Cllr Bowden and Peel Ports chief executive Mark Whitworth, also signed by Tory Warrington South parliamentary candidate Andy Carter, he said: “Aside from potential structural safety risks erosion brings to the bridges, they cosmetically look dreadful and are dragging down the appearance of our area.

“There is also concern at the rumour to completely close each bridge at a time whilst work is completed.

“I firmly believe this move to be unnecessary and that it would cause significant issues for our already pressured travel network in the area.

“The time has come for a clear timeline to be published, so that residents can understand what the indicative plans are, even if in draft form, and when to expect the work to commence and finish.”

Peel issued a short statement on the issue yesterday, Monday.

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A spokesman said: “We continue to work with Warrington highways to develop a pragmatic plan and programme of works.

“A follow-up meeting is scheduled in the coming weeks after which we hope to be able to provide a further update.”

But, later on yesterday, Mr Rashid stated Mr Whitworth confirmed Peel would be putting the work on the first bridge out to tender in September this year during a meeting.

Warrington Guardian:

MP Faisal Rashid

The Labour politician says work on the first bridge will begin in summer 2020 – with work on the subsequent sites to follow.

He also says, at the meeting, Peel confirmed that during each period of works of a bridge being painted and maintained that it would need to be fully closed, adding that the firm said it will be working with the council to mitigate the impact of the closures.

“I am pleased to hear that we finally now have a start date for the works,” said Mr Rashid.

“This issue has been going on for several years and the work is long overdue.

“The painting and maintenance of each of the swing bridges will make a big difference to these gateways into our town.”