Councillors attending the September meeting of Causeway Coast and Glens full council were shocked to learn the Victorian footbridge from Castlerock station is ‘lying open to the elements’.
The bridge, made by Walter Macfarlane & Co, the Saracen Foundry, Glasgow, previously connected the two platforms.
In 2017 council approved the contract for the removal and assessment of the bridge with a view to ascertaining if it can be restored and in 2018 the NIEA (Northern Ireland Environment Agency) consultant assessed and confirmed it could be restored and put back in place.
At the August meeting of the Environmental Services committee, members were told by Director of Environmental Services, Aiden McPeake that the bridge is ‘in storage’ before explaining the council’s hands ‘are tied’ in relation to the timescale of replacing the bridge, that ‘Translink holds the key’ to its return and he ‘couldn’t rule out the possibility’ that the bridge would remain missing.
Raising the matter at Tuesday’s full council, DUP Alderman George Duddy described it as a ‘long running saga.’
He said: “This is going back to the days of CBC (Coleraine Borough Council), this bridge was removed and discussion took place about the works that were going to be carried out on that bridge and we are sitting here in 2021 and I believe that bridge is lying out at Newmills (council site) not even covered up, wide open to the elements and we are talking about trying to restore it at some stage.
“My concern is despite the report there has been no progress made on Castlerock footbridge and the last time I was at Newmills it was lying wide open to the elements with little concern or regard being shown for it and at some stage there’s the possibility that this council may have to put their hand in their pocket and pay for the repairs but we aren’t even looking after what we took down.
“Why is it not under cover and why have we done nothing to progress it. Why has nothing substantial been done to progress the works on the bridge which the Castlerock community has fought hard for.”
Responding to Alderman Duddy, Mr McPeake explained there would be a ‘further meeting with Translink at the end of this week.’
He added: “Our hands are tied with Translink. Until such times as they agree to the analysis and works that need to be carried out on it we cannot complete repairs.”
Mr McPeake said the objective was ‘still to repair and replace.’
Alderman Duddy talked about the historical significance of the footbridge saying it ‘cannot be under-estimated.’
Asking if the footbridge could be moved under cover, Alderman Duddy commented: “We have totally disregarded it. I get the feeling it’s being left out to the elements so it’s beyond repair.
“If we aren’t going to do anything with it, surely it should be repaired and placed in a museum until such time as we decide what is going to happen to it.”
Mr McPeake informed councillors that there ‘was no requirement for it to be undercover’ but he would look at alternative storage for it.
Councillor Adrian McQuillan added: “Not once at the committee meeting were we told it was lying outside, we were told it was in storage.
“If Mr McPeake is meeting Translink later this week can we get a report brought to the next Environment meeting so we can try and move this forward.”
Mr McPeake confirmed he would bring a verbal update to the committee meeting on Tuesday, September 14.