PEEL Ports says it is ‘too early’ to decide on whether full or partial bridge closures will be needed when it begins a £1.5 million paint job.

The port operator owns the town’s three 125-year-old swing bridges over the Manchester Ship Canal – which are situated on Chester Road, London Road and Knutsford Road.

The firm, which has previously confirmed it would cost around £500,000 to repaint each one, is due to put the work on the first bridge out to tender in September this year.

The scheme on the first structure, expected to be the London Road site in Stockton Heath, is planned to begin in summer 2020.

But concerns have been raised over it potentially resulting in a six-month closure.

Steve Allcock, Conservative Stockton Heath borough council candidate, wrote to council leader Cllr Russ Bowden and Peel Ports chief executive Mark Whitworth about the issue.

He called for clarification on the ‘urgent need’ for restoration work on the three bridges.

Mr Allcock said residents are becoming increasingly concerned by the state of the bridges, which has been made worse by the ‘lack of updates and unanswered questions’.

He also highlighted the ‘genuine concern’ over the prospect of a closure, along with asking why the work is not starting quicker and about structural and safety assessments.

In an e-mail seen by the Warrington Guardian, Gary Hodgson, managing director at Port Logistics at the group, responded to the Tory candidate.

He said: “We carry out our statutory inspections of all our bridges in line with our insurers requirements, while this does not address mechanical or cosmetic issues it ensures the bridges are safe to use.

“However, I can confirm when we take the bridges out of commission for the painting works we will also be carrying out mechanical and electrical servicing/upgrades of each bridge.”

“First and foremost, our prime objective is to ensure we complete these works in a safe manner.

“However, the effects of taking the bridge out of commission is probably the major topic of our discussions with Warrington transport department and we have committed that our tender process will ensure that we ask all potential contractors to look at a full range of practical options to complete the works and, as such, (it) is too early to decide if we need full or partial closures of the bridges and, therefore, what mitigation can be put in place.”

Furthermore, Mr Hodgson confirmed the port operator is set to discuss the matter with town’s transport chiefs in September at a review meeting.

Mr Allcock welcomed the response from Mr Hodgson.

“We’ll wait and see what progress is made with Warrington transport in September and will liaise with Peel Ports if further clarification is needed, but we hope this does give some further insight for everyone,” he added.