COUNCIL chiefs are being urged to only support Port Warrington if the town’s three 125-year-old swing bridges are replaced with modern structures.

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

Peel Ports owns the sites and has previously confirmed it would cost around £500,000 to repaint each one. But the port operator has committed to carrying out improvements.

In October, council leader Cllr Russ Bowden said work on Stockton Heath swing bridge, the first site in line to receive a refurbishment, could begin early this year.

Peel and the Labour-run council have been assessing options including the possibility of keeping one lane open during the works, doing work overnight and putting in road closures outside of peak hours.

A council spokesman says ‘positive discussions continue’ with Peel regarding the engineering, refurbishment and painting of the swing bridges.

“Peel Ports are currently about to go out to tender for this work,” he said.

“At the same time, we are discussing with Peel Ports the implications for pedestrians and traffic of this work. A further announcement will be made in March.”

However, Cllr Bob Barr, leader of the town’s Liberal Democrats, is calling for a ‘more ambitious statement of intent’ for the three canal crossings.

Warrington Guardian:

Cllr Bob Barr

He added: “While welcome, and something we have been campaigning for, for a long time, the council’s announcement that Peel will finally give one of the town’s Victorian swing bridges a lick of paint is underwhelming.

“Support for Port Warrington and increased use of the canal should be dependent on the eventual replacement of the bridges with modern structures that would open and close faster and have the capacity for trams should Warrington decide that is a way of reducing congestion and improving air quality.

“Warrington deserves 21st century transport infrastructure, not touched up Victorian engineering.”

The expansion of Port Warrington is a key part of the council’s vision for growth but it would result in the loss of part of Moore Nature Reserve.

If proposals go ahead, the planned £212 million Western Link road would provide access to the port.

The development of the port is being tipped to provide the opportunity to create a ‘hub of world trade’ by senior figures at the Town Hall.

The authority will be working in partnership with Peel and the Government on the project.

Warrington Conservative Facebook campaign group, Stockton Heath Matters, said it is pleased to see that there is some movement on 'this important and urgent work'.

Steve Allcock, Tory borough council candidate, added: “Although we don’t have exact details from this meeting, it is encouraging that Peel are taking ownership and that the work will consist of structural and mechanical repairs and not just a paint job as previously feared.

"We have been actively liaising with both Peel Ports and the transport team at Warrington Borough Council and will continue to push them for updates in March when a further announcement is due. The community has had enough, so the sooner information is made available and work commences the better.”