Steel bridges on the River Nene formally opened and in use for Chester House Estate visitors

Steel bridges on the River Nene formally opened and in use for Chester House Estate visitors

Two much-needed pedestrian bridges have been formally opened today and are now fully in use – re-connecting communities in the north of Northamptonshire for the first time since an arson attack forced the former wooden bridges to be closed and deemed unsafe to cross.

The new steel structures, opened to the public in October, were formally unveiled by North Northamptonshire Council (who oversee Chester House Estate) and partners on 25 November. The bridges, which cross the main River Nene and a backwater and link Wellingborough, Irchester and Rushden with Chester House Estate, have been completed and installed after more than a year of consultation, planning, designing and construction – just in time for the Estate’s second Christmas since officially opening to the public.

Cllr Graham Lawman, North Northamptonshire Council’s Executive Member for Highways, Travel and Assets, said: “The old wooden bridges have been out of use since 2015, so it’s been a project close to so many people’s hearts for years and I am delighted that the accessible bridges are now open and we have been able to reinstate this important Public Right of Way, opening up Chester House to walkers along the Nene Valley and further enhancing our Greenway infrastructure project. I saw plenty of walkers already using it the weekend that it was opened.

“Due to the history of the site, the teams have had to work very carefully, protecting the environment on a challenging project, including installing a unique haul road, so it is great that we have been able to come together to formally celebrate the new bridges at Chester House Estate.”

This project was made possible thanks to funding from The Department for Transport (DfT) and was led by North Northamptonshire Council.

Cllr Helen Howell, the council’s Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Sport, Leisure, Culture and Tourism, said: “We are delighted the wait is over and since the bridges opened a few weeks ago, Chester House Estate is now being discovered and enjoyed by new visitors – walkers, ramblers, families, friends and community groups.

“With plenty of events taking place at Chester House over the Christmas period, now is the perfect time to take a trip to the site. Maybe you could leave the car at home and take a walk along the Greenway, entering the site over the new bridges which not only makes access to Chester House Estate and its 10,000 years of history more accessible, but allow for some great views and opportunities to discover the natural habitat along the river Nene from a new viewpoint on the bridges”

Cllr Jason Smithers, Leader of the Council, added: “We know how important these pedestrian bridges are to the people of North Northamptonshire and have been working closely with our Highways team, alongside key partners, to design and install new bridges, ones that will be here for years to come.”

Kier Highways, which secured highways maintenance contracts with NNC earlier this year, started works on the historical Chester House site while part of a joint venture with WSP in 2021.

Since then, the provider has overcome a range of obstacles – such as transporting the structures across the floodplains at the site of special scientific interest (SSSI) while protecting archaeological findings.

James Birch, managing director for Kier Highways maintenance, said: “We’re proud to reach this significant milestone on behalf of North Northamptonshire Council and Chester House Estate and it’s fantastic to see the positive impact realised in such a short space of time.

“It’s clear how important the bridges are to visitors and local residents and the connections they bring to towns and villages. We’re pleased to have played some part in the rich history of Chester House and look forward to learning how communities benefit from these bridges well into the future. This unique project has required excellent collaboration from all stakeholders.”

Chester House Estate is overseen by North Northamptonshire Council and opened to the public in October 2021, following an extensive £17m Nationally Lottery Heritage Funded restoration project.

 

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