The bridge operates independently of the harbour’s lock gates so access for vessels will be unaffected. An alternative pedestrian route is available around the perimeter of the harbour and will be clearly signposted.
The decision to close the bridge follows engineering investigatory works by the Environment Agency, which has joint maintenance responsibility for the bridge with harbour owner and operator Sutton Harbour Holdings Plc.
The issue relates to the bridge’s slew bearing, which is the main component on which the bridge pivots. This has recently been discovered to be worn and without replacement will result in the bridge becoming jammed, potentially blocking the harbour entrance.
The Environment Agency has therefore advised that the bridge be closed at the end of a three week notice period which starts today (29th April). The repair is expected to take six weeks from the end of the notice period, which means the bridge would re-open at the beginning of July.
Dave Turner from the Environment Agency said: > We don’t want to take the risk of the bridge jamming resulting in a much larger repair and impeding harbour traffic, which would mean it having to close for longer. Giving users notice now before the school holidays is the best course of action.
Pete Bromley, Harbour Master of Sutton Harbour, said: > This is an essential repair to ensure safe passage of pedestrians in the short term. Longer term it is highly likely that the bridge will need to be replaced in its entirety. There will inevitably be some inconvenience for users but recent investment by Sutton Harbour Holdings in the harbour’s Heritage Trail means there is an alternative route and this will be clearly signposted.
The replacement slew bearing, which is contained within a sealed unit, is having to be specifically manufactured. This means the faulty bearing must be removed first and transported to a specialist firm in Wiltshire before work on the new bespoke bearing can begin.
The swing bridge will be temporarily closed this Thursday 1st May from 8.30am until 12.30pm to allow for some routine maintenance and further engineering investigations, but is then expected to operate as normal until the six-week closure from 20th May.