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Evesham Abbey Bridge is causing "hardship" to town, says council leader
A LEADING politician has written to the contractors working on Evesham Abbey Bridge urging them to finish the work without any further delays.
Councillor Paul Middlebrough, leader of Wychavon District Council, sent the letter to Hochtief on Friday after being led to believe the bridge, which was supposed to re-open in November, may remain closed until March next year.
In the letter he requested a director of the company, working to replace the 85-year-old bridge as part of a £12.6 million scheme, visit the town to see the “hardship” being caused by the delay.
He writes: “Evesham is a small market town situated on the banks of the River Avon. Your company was contracted by Worcestershire County Council to rebuild the main bridge in the town earlier this year. Unfortunately, the building contract is running significantly behind.
“The contract was awarded on the basis of a 10 week closure period which was a commitment by you as contractor to not only your client but the townsfolk and traders of the community.
“While it should have been reopened for trade use last month (28th November) there was an announcement of a delay until the 20 December which was disappointing. However, today it now looks as though it will not re-open in March of 2014 and final completion could be in the second half of 2014.
“The delay is causing a real hardship to shops and markets adversely affecting the vibrancy of this market town with the threat of business having to close, and once hone the dynamics of the community will change for the worse.
“The reputation of the town as a visitor destination will be lost and could take years to recover. Continued poor media coverage as you will appreciate becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“You will have no doubt been alerted to the press release from your UK arm and Worcestershire County Council. While I am grateful for Hochtief for the first time in this project being quoted in any media release, the content is to say the least unsatisfactory. I dread to think what impact this will have on the reputation of your UK arm.
“In 2015 Evesham will be at the centre of world attention as the 750th anniversary of the Battle of Evesham will be celebrated. This battle was central to the creation of parliamentary democracy in England.
“The eyes of parliamentarians from Britain, the British Commonwealth and democracies in Europe and around the World will be on Evesham.
“The way things are going you reputation not only in Evesham but worldwide suffer.
“I would request that Hochtief Europe look into the dealings of your UK arm as a matter of urgency so that the reputation of company doesn’t suffer any more and more importantly the damage to our community is minimised. I would like you or one of your directors to visit us here in Evesham to offer a solution to the economic damage.”
People in the town are now asking why they haven’t been told about the possible length of the delay.
Former councillor Martin King said: “How can anyone plan for this? Why is the town not being told? If this is what we have to face tell the businesses. I would go so far as to say it’s a joke that they think a Christmas market will be enough to keep the town going.”
Last Wednesday Worcestershire County Council announced the bridge would not re-open until the new year, but did not provide a date for the re-opening.
Coun John Smith, Worcestershire County Council’s cabinet member for highways, said he was not aware of the delay being until March but never-the-less agreed everyone needed answers from Hochtief.
“We have a meeting in the next week to ten days with the managing director of Hochtief,” he said. “We will again be making the case very strongly that they give us dates when the bridge will be open again.
“We can only tell people what our contractors are telling us. I understand there are problems.
“Hopefully the managing director will give us some answers.
“There will, I am sure, be serious discussions once the bridge is completed about the contract.
“Our priority is to get the bridge open.”
Hochtief has not yet commented on the letter.
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