One angry Abergavenny dog-walker who wishes to remain anonymous, told the Chronicle, “It would appear MCC are more concerned with making the town look pretty for the Eisteddfod than the health and safety of its tax paying residents.”
The frustration felt by the hundreds of people who use the popular walkway leading from Ross Road over the River Gavenny to Pen-y-Fal began after it was damaged earlier this month by mindless yobs, who either kicked or pulled off most of the wooden uprights supporting the handrail.
On Monday, June 6, the Chronicle was contacted by a local resident who explained that as a result of vandalism, the “popular and picturesque” bridge had been transformed overnight into a “death-trap for young children and dogs.”
Keen to prevent a serious accident from taking place, the Chronicle immediately contacted MCC, who on hearing about the situation temporarily closed the bridge that same afternoon to undertake more permanent repairs.
Monmouthshire’s Commercial and Green Spaces, Tim Bradfield said, “The vandalised bridge is a well-used walkway leading from Ross Road over the River Gavenny to the Parc Pen-y-fal estate. It has been subject to a number of attacks in recent weeks with the wooden slats kicked out and barrier fencing ripped off and thrown in the river. Our team temporarily closed the bridge yesterday afternoon to undertake more permanent repairs this week. Our longer term plan is to install metal weld mesh panels along the sides.
“Such behaviour is deplorable. Repairs will mean cash for other projects will have to diverted and any closures will inconvenience people. If the public have any information about this and other related incidents please would they contact Gwent Police.”
Visiting the scene in the wake of the “temporary repairs”, the Chronicle discovered two bright orange barriers placed on either end of the bridge, emblazoned with the sign, “Footbridge closed for repair.”
The barriers were secured to the bridge on each side by a small screw.
Many residents expressed their concerns that the barriers were not high enough to prevent people from leaping over and using the bridge, or low enough to stop dogs from scampering through.
They added that people were still using the bridge, despite the barriers, and that an eight-foot high steel barrier or fence would have been a lot safer if you really wanted to prevent people from using it.
Over two weeks later and the bright orange barriers now lie permanently ajar and the bridge remains just as much of a “death-trap.”
In that time the Chronicle has been inundated with complaints about what has been described as the seemingly “lacklustre and breathtakingly complacent attitude” of MCC in regard to the repair of the bridge.
One user of the popular footway complained, “Two weeks on and it’s in the same state. The closed barriers have been removed and people are using it all the time. It’s an accident waiting to happen.”
Tim Bradfield, Commercial and Green Spaces Manager, explained, “Due to the number of slats knocked out of the bridge we affixed orange plastic barriers on either side. These were screwed onto the bridge with appropriate signage attached to indicate that the footbridge is closed for repairs. Unfortunately, these barriers were removed by members of the public to access the bridge but have now been secured again and will be checked. We take health and safety very seriously and have been active in managing repairs to the bridge but in recent weeks slats that have been repaired by our workforce have been kicked out within days of being replaced.“Our original proposal was to erect plywood boards on the inside of the bridge handrails as a temporary measure with a longer term aim of installing metal mesh panels. A fabricator is able to supply and install the weld mesh more quickly than anticipated - four weeks from the date of order - so we would not wish to incur the expenditure of public money to install wooden slats for such a short period if they are to be shortly removed and disposed of.“We have received communication from some concerned residents about the amount of vandalism inflicted on the bridge. They are disappointed that the bridge is closed but appreciate the difficulty the council experiences in managing repairs and requesting police assistance. We understand that residents feel inconvenienced by the closure of the bridge but due to restricted revenue budgets we would not wish to waste money in undertaking very short term repairs that might be also susceptible to vandalism.“We again appeal to the public to inform Gwent Police if they have any information about the deplorable behaviour of those who cause damage to this bridge.”