English Heritage decision on New Bridge

Members with long memories will recall that, following a detailed suggestion by committee member and farmer Miles Fursdon, in 2005 the Society initiated meetings with county council engineers, DNPA archaeologist, and the parish councils of Holne and Widecombe-in-the-Moor to make very small adjustments to the parapet of medieval New Bridge (listed Grade II*) which crosses the R. Dart, in order to reduce the damage done by collisions, and to avoid costs and the resulting considerable inconvenience to local people when the bridge was closed for repairs. Newsletter 24 (October 2005) pp.3–6 gives a full report. All parties seemed interested and supportive of the proposals. Since 2005, despite reminders from the Society, there has been very little activity on behalf of the county council, but in 2008 they seemed keen to move things forward and carry out the necessary work.

We have now received a letter dated 8 January 2009 from the Dept of Environment, Economy & Culture, Devon County Council, to let us know that English Heritage do not support alterations to the bridge.

The English Heritage view is that “…we should adapt to the bridge, not the other way about. The Moor is special and all agree that it imposes constraints…what you propose, though ingenious, has no guarantee of being a long-term solution. Importantly, it is our view that what is proposed would damage the design and affect the character of the grade II* bridge, besides being the continuation of ‘death by a thousand cuts’. There is no need for such damaging change; however slight, it is incremental. Earlier widening should not be seen as a reason for continued widening. This is a traditional, well-built, much-loved bridge in a particularly picturesque setting; a renowned beauty spot on the Moor…We appreciate that you have given the matter considerable thought and attention and recommend that this is extended to an objective appraisal of non-destructive options, including better signage and fore-warning of the restrictions; tightening of the restrictions and physical restrictions…”.

This is a very disappointing and somewhat patronising response, and much of what English Heritage states is open to question. The county council says it will now look at improved signing as the only option. A formal response by The Dartmoor Society will be considered.

Tom Greeves