A NEW multi-million-pound foot and cycle bridge which will “open up” the north of the city has taken a huge step forward.

Work to build a new bridge between Gheluvelt Park in Worcester and the old Kepax landfill site has gathered pace in recent months and now Worcester City Council’s policy and resources committee has agreed to put aside up to £100,000 to formalise plans.

Councillor Simon Geraghty said building a new bridge as a way of “opening up” the north of the city was an opportunity the council must seize.

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He said there had been concerns with building Diglis bridge but nobody would now say it was a waste of resources.

“I am sure in ten years’ time you won’t find anyone in Worcester that is saying this isn’t a good thing to do," he said.

Whilst £875,000 has already been allocated by the city council to ensure the project goes ahead, the council would still need to find £6.5 million to build the bridge.

The estimated total cost would be almost £9 million which includes studies, design costs, the new bridge, a path through the Kepax site and wider improvements. The construction of the bridge would cost around £6 million alone.

The rising cost of the bridge did concern the committee’s Labour councillors.

Cllr Roger Berry said he “scoffed” when the cost of the bridge was quoted as £6 million and was now “very concerned” by the increase. He said and finding £9 million to fund the project was “really asking a lot” and was relieved the county council would be taking on much of the responsibility.

Worcestershire County Council promised £4 million towards the cost of the bridge as well as for refurbishments to the city’s Sabrina Bridge in its last budget. The city council has put an estimate of £2.5 million for refurbishing Sabrina Bridge with the rest expected to go towards the new bridge.

The council’s policy and resources committee’s decision, which was made at a meeting on Tuesday (November 5), means the city council will contribute £100,000 of the £610,000 needed to build a full business case and compile planning applications as well as to pay for further studies.

Cllr Marc Bayliss, leader of the city council, said Labour’s claims there was no demand for the bridge or that it was not value for money had all been “knocked on the head” by the report and they were only against it because it was a Conservative idea.

He said the new bridge was not a “one-party project” and told all councillors to “get on board" as it was a “good” scheme that had “demonstrable” support from the public.

Cllr Adrian Gregson, leader of the council’s Labour group, said he would be more enthusiastic if it could be shown the new bridge would stop lorries and cars from travelling through the city centre.

He said drawing comparisons with the Diglis bridge were a “massive flaw” of the plan as the two areas were completely different.

Cllr Louis Stephen, chairman of the policy and resources committee, said he “fully supported” building the bridge and the council need to be ambitious.

He said any concerns would get answered and if other councillors were going to criticise the bridge they should be putting forward alternative proposals.

The committee’s Conservative and Green councillors voted for the plan with Labour abstaining.