Family no longer has access to their own farmland after bridge closes
Emilie Gill, local democracy journalist
A Monmouthshire family found themselves without access to their own farmland due to the emergency closure of a bridge in Tintern.
The Tintern Wireworks Bridge received an emergency road closure on August 18 for up to 18 months because the bridge was not considered safe for motor vehicles and warning signs have been ignored or deleted.
Concrete bollards were installed to stop vehicles trying to use the access, but this left the Simpson family without access to their farm.
Caroline Simpson, whose parents own land that is now without access, said it had been “completely cut off”.
She said: “The bridge has so much history and it is our only access to our land. Now we cannot access our land – we are cut off.
“The land has to be tended and my father has to drive farm vehicles across to tune the land. “
Ms Simpson acknowledged that there is alternative access, but that it is “impractical” and “not a viable option”.
This means that the only safe vehicle access has been removed.
Ms Simpson said: “Our fear is that they won’t reopen it. You can’t take someone’s aisle. We go there every day.
Ms Simpson had planned to take her children on vacation next week, but the trailer with everything she needs is on farmland, so she had to cancel it.
Ms Simpson’s mother, Mary Simpson, said the closure was “having a huge impact on the family. We need to have access to our land, we go there every day. We have boats on the river.
“We have always been involved in river safety and we can’t help if we can’t access land. It cut us off completely.
While the Monmouthshire and Gloucestershire councils have said the closure is necessary, the family disagree.
They commissioned an independent study of the bridge, which was seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
The survey states: “My first reaction was a surprise, having used the bridge regularly and maintained an interest in the condition of the structure for the previous nine years.
“Maintenance of the structure had clearly been neglected, but I had not witnessed a sudden deterioration that I believed would lead to an emergency shutdown.
“With your help, I had the opportunity to inspect the soffit of the bridge from the river at high tide, and I also could not identify any significant changes in condition from below.”
He goes on to say: “There may be good reasons to shut down a vehicle, but this has not been disclosed to date.”
“Cut us off”
Ms Simpson started an online petition, which received more than 650 signatures, calling for the Wireworks Bridge to be reopened and protested on the bridge with her children last Wednesday – the day she was told the stations would be installed.
The petition reads: “My parents bought Ferry Farm in Tintern with a right of way to access it over the Tintern Bridge. This is our only passable access and has now been taken away from us by the Gloucestershire and Monmouthshire counties councils.
“They cut us off from our property and land over the River Wye and the bridge, placing barrier posts at each end of the old bridge, making it impossible to access our land by car.
“The Severn Area Rescue Association (SARA) also needs access through it as they have permission to use our landing stage if necessary during the exercise and in an emergency.
“We were hardly consulted on the plans of the communes, the agricultural equipment and machines are now inaccessible to maintain our land. “
Kath Haworth, Gloucestershire County Council Motorway Manager, said: ‘We fully appreciate the inconvenience to residents and businesses who are affected by the closure of this bridge to vehicles and we apologize for the inconvenience.
“However, this closure is necessary due to the deteriorating condition of the bridge which has several defects, cracks and widespread corrosion and we have a duty to ensure the safety of the users of the bridge.
“For the moment, the bridge has been closed to vehicles, so it should only be used by pedestrians and cyclists.
“Joint work with Monmouthshire County Council is planned to repair the bridge in the fall of 2022.
“In the meantime, we will be working with those who are particularly grappling with the impact of the closure to see what more we can do to support them.”
A spokesperson for Monmouthshire Council said: ‘We share responsibility for the management of the various cross-border bridges and Gloucestershire oversees this.
“The structure of the bridge has been assessed and it cannot safely support vehicles. Warning signs have been ignored or removed, in order to ensure the safety of the public and users of the bridge, an emergency order has been put in place closing the bridge to motor traffic.
“I am very concerned to hear that a car has hit the terminal several times to overturn it.
“Gloucestershire County Council is seeking to work with the occupants of the affected property (on the English side).”
The costs of repairs will be shared equally between the two municipalities.
The emergency road closure is not expected to last more than 18 months, with bridge work scheduled for fall 2022.
To view the petition, go here.