*LATEST UPDATE* 16 October 2023 - Both the Roads Minister, Richard Holden MP, and Christine Allen, National Highways’ Regional Director for the South East, responded to Michael, and please see their letters attached below. Michael posted the following update on his Facebook Page:
“Following my virtual meeting last Friday with Christine Allen, National Highways’ Regional Director for the South East, and local County, Borough and Parish Councillors, Rebecca Jennings-Evans, Richard Tear, Valerie White and Katia Malcaus Cooper, I have since received responses from both National Highways and the Roads Minister.
Whilst it is encouraging that National Highways has confirmed it will be doing everything possible to accelerate the replacement of the bridge, hundreds of residents are inconvenienced each day through lack of access, so I will be sure to remain in close contact with National Highways to keep the pressure on. I am grateful to the Roads Minister, Richard Holden MP, for confirming he will do the same.
I am still awaiting a full timetable of the expected timings from National Highways, which I will share as soon as I can, but as you will see from the letter, National Highways is planning for the demolition of the bridge to take place in the second weekend of December, from 21:00 Friday 8th through to 06:00 Monday 11th.
National Highways has also promised to provide an FAQs document for local residents, which I will post here once received. In the meantime, should any residents have any particular thoughts or concerns they wish me to raise directly with National Highways, please do contact me at email@example.com”
13 October 2023 – Michael had a virtual meeting with Christine Allen, National Highways’ Regional Director for the South East, together with local County, Borough and Parish Councillors, Rebecca Jennings-Evans, Richard Tear, Valerie White and Katia Malcaus Cooper. He posted the following update on his Facebook and Instagram pages:
“I made it clear that a replacement footbridge must be in place as soon as possible, and I was very disappointed to hear National Highways maintain that the replacement would likely take between 18 - 24 months due to lengthy design, procurement and construction procedures. I reaffirmed how unacceptable this was, given the impact on the community, and explained that my constituents cannot be expected to wait such an unnecessary amount of time.
National Highways did relay that they would do everything they can to expedite the works as much as possible, but I believe they must do better and I have asked for a full timetable of expected timings for completion, which National Highways promised to provide next week.
I am awaiting a response from the Department for Transport to my correspondence last week, and following receipt of this, I will work to see what more can be done to hold National Highways to account and to press for a considerably accelerated completion of a replacement footbridge.”
9 October 2023 – Michael has formally written to the Roads Minister following their telephone conversation last Friday, and he will be meeting Christine Allen, National Highways’ Regional Director for the South East, later this week. A further update will be posted as soon as possible.
6 October 2023 – Michael telephoned the Roads Minister, Richard Holden MP, to express his concerns at the sudden closure of the bridge and also stressed that the two year time-frame mooted for its replacement was unacceptable. The Roads Minister confirmed that he and the Transport Secretary, Mark Harper MP, would take this matter up with National Highways.
Michael then met Cllr Valerie White, Borough Councillor for Bagshot and North Windlesham, that afternoon at the Whitmoor Road entrance to the footbridge, and he posted a video update on his Facebook and Instagram pages, which you can view here.
In the evening, Michael received a response from National Highways, which is attached below. As you will see, it sets out the sequence of events that lead to the emergency closure of the footbridge, and Michael plans to meet Christine Allen, National Highways’ Regional Director for the South East, as soon as possible.
4 October 2023 – Michael received the following acknowledgement from National Highways:
“Thank you for your email, and I can only apologise for the oversight – clearly you should have been informed about this situation far sooner.
I am currently discussing this with colleagues, and you will receive a full response shortly.”
3 October 2023 – Lightwater County Councillor, Rebecca Jennings-Evans, contacted Michael to inform him of the emergency closure of the footbridge over the M3 from Bagshot to Lightwater Country Park. Michael immediately wrote to National Highways and posted the following statement on his Facebook Page:
“I was hugely disappointed to learn of National Highways’ decision regarding this morning’s closure of the footbridge over the M3 from the Lighwater Country Park to Whitmoor Road in Bagshot.
I am aware just how vital a link this footbridge is between Bagshot and Lightwater, and that its closure is a massive blow to local residents, particularly those using it to travel to and from work and school.
Whilst I can very much appreciate National Highways has decided its closure is necessary due to apparent safety worries regarding the structural integrity of this bridge, I am concerned at why the decision seems to have been made with almost no forewarning, and that residents and local councillors have now been informed that it will take up to two years to be replaced.
Residents are rightly hugely aggrieved at this news, especially given that the alternative routes for crossing the M3 are both a significant diversion, and of questionable safety themselves, which is especially worrying for parents of children walking to school in the darker, colder winter months.
I also worry that this decision from National Highways will force residents who previously relied on the footbridge into their cars, further damaging the environment and worsening the already significant congestion issues along the M3 in Surrey Heath.
In light of all of the above, I have urgently written to National Highways to ask when this decision was made, and for an explanation as to why residents, councillors, and I, were not informed earlier. Further to this, looking at the considerable disruption this closure will have on so many residents’ lives, I have explained that it is absolutely necessary that National Highways urgently explores measures to expedite a completion of a replacement footbridge as soon as possible.