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Shock Cambridge footbridge closures ‘unannounced and hugely controversial’

Closures will not affect access to the River Cam towpaths or access to Fen Road, Milton

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Hundreds of children face a “long and significantly more dangerous” walk to their Cambridge school after the shock closure of Jesus Lock bridge. One angry resident told CambsNews that the closure of Jesus Lock bridge (Baits Bite Lock footbridge has also been closed) was “unannounced and hugely controversial.

“I think I was the first to spot the closure today, and I rang the Park Street Primary School to warn them that parents might be late this afternoon,” she said.

“Hundreds of children use that bridge as part of their journey to school.

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Jesus Green Lock footbridge (above) and Baits Bite Lock footbridge have been temporarily closed, following the Conservators of the River Cam’s decision to close both locks. PHOTO: Camcycle

Jesus Green Lock footbridge (above) and Baits Bite Lock footbridge have been temporarily closed, following the Conservators of the River Cam’s decision to close both locks. PHOTO: Camcycle

“And the primary school had not even been warned.  Children will now have to take a long – and significantly more dangerous – route via Magdalene Street (lots of buses) and Chesterton Road (narrow curves and lots of traffic).”

The resident, a member of Camcycle but speaking in a personal capacity, said the controversial closure of Jesus Lock bridge was made by the “unelected, unaccountable, and obviously naïve Cam Conservators.

“I can’t help wondering whether it is a lack of spending by them on preventative maintenance that has led to this ‘emergency’ closure. 

“It can’t be that much of an emergency, as cracks were apparently noticed at the start of the year – or perhaps we have all been in mortal danger for months.

Cambridgeshire County Council confirmed the decision to temporarily close the bridges “following the Conservators of the River Cam’s decision to close both locks”.

Jesus Green Lock footbridge (above) and Baits Bite Lock footbridge have been temporarily closed, following the Conservators of the River Cam’s decision to close both locks. PHOTO: Camcycle

Jesus Green Lock footbridge (above) and Baits Bite Lock footbridge have been temporarily closed, following the Conservators of the River Cam’s decision to close both locks. PHOTO: Camcycle

A county council spokesperson said: “A survey commissioned by the Conservators of the River Cam has revealed structural issues with the lock islands in both Cambridge and Milton locations.

“We are acting quickly to temporarily close both bridges as a precaution whilst we carry out surveys and assessments to understand the impact of the lock islands’ condition on the bridge structures.”

The bridge closures were put in place on Tuesday afternoon.

“These closures will not affect access to the River Cam towpaths or access to Fen Road, Milton,” said the spokesperson.

Cllr Alex Beckett, chair of the highways and transport committee said: “We have a duty to ensure the safety of our paths and highways and we understand that this will come as disappointing news to the local communities including the River Cam community and those regularly using the footbridges, particularly with the beer festival this week.

Jesus Green Lock footbridge (above) and Baits Bite Lock footbridge have been temporarily closed, following the Conservators of the River Cam’s decision to close both locks. PHOTO: Camcycle

Jesus Green Lock footbridge (above) and Baits Bite Lock footbridge have been temporarily closed, following the Conservators of the River Cam’s decision to close both locks. PHOTO: Camcycle

“Our officers are liaising with the Cam Conservators, the Environment Agency who operate the sluices in these locations and City and South Cambridgeshire District Councils on both of these closures.

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“We will be keeping the public and our stakeholders updated on our work by sharing further news later in the week once bridge surveys have been carried out. We will reopen the bridges as soon as we are satisfied with their safety.”

He said alternative pedestrian routes for Jesus Green Lock footbridge are Magdalene bridge and Victoria Road bridge.

Clayhithe Road bridge or the Abbey-Chesterton footbridge are the nearest River Cam pedestrian crossing points to Baits Bite Lock.

The council spokesperson added: “Diversion signage will be put in place as soon as possible on both sides of the river in both Cambridge and Milton to advise pedestrians of alternative routes”.

A statement from Cam Conservators said: “Due to safety concerns regarding the structural integrity of the lock islands at Baits Bite and Jesus Green, the decision has been taken to temporarily close the locks until further notice.

“More detailed structural investigations will be undertaken and a plan for remedial works developed urgently.

“The Conservators are engaging with the Environment Agency and Local Authorities to seek a coordinated approach.”

BRIEFING from Cam Conservators 

The Conservators of the River Cam are responsible for the navigation (the river) from Mill Pool in Cambridge to Bottisham Lock (Waterbeach) and the locks in between, namely Jesus Green Lock (JGL) in Cambridge and Bait’s Bite Lock (BBL).

​Each lock has an island between the lock chamber and the sluice and weir structures, which it supports.

At both Jesus Lock and Baits Bite Lock, the Conservators own the lock and lock island, while the Environment Agency (EA) own and operate the sluice and weir. In addition, the lock islands support footbridges and public right of way in these locations, which are managed by the relevant Local Authorities.

​Following observations of cracks in both lock islands, early in 2024 the Conservators of the River Cam commissioned structural surveys.

​The consequent reports identify significant structural fragility in the lock islands and a need for reinforcement work in the short to medium term.

​The Conservators have collectively reviewed the reports and are urgently drawing up a detailed risk assessment, commissioning more detailed surveys, and developing a project plan for remedial works.

For any enquiries, please contact the Clerk for the Conservators of the River Cam: Tracy Yarrow @ clerk@camconservators.org.uk

 

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