AFTER more than four years plans to replace the Castle Meadows footbridge crossing the River Gavenny still seem to be no closer to completion according to the newly formed Friends of the Castle Meadows group.

Now after years of waiting, the group has created its own plans to replace the bridge, which it says is an important facility for local people and tourists.

"We have approached a company which says it has built a similar structure to the one we need, over the River Ouze in Bedfordshire at a cost of around £35,000," said Anthea Fairey, chairman of the group.

Four years ago Monmouthshire County council removed the much used footbridge after an inspection revealed serious structural problems that made it uneconomical to repair and despite local pressure it remains unreplaced.

At the Bryn y Cwm Area meeting in July members were informed that flood defence consent for the replacement bridge had been received by the authority, but were told that disabled access remains an issue over the dimension of the gates to the bridge to enable disability scooters to gain access.

However when the tenders for the work to construct the bridge were submitted the costs were found to be much higher than anticipated, forcing the local authority to rethink the scheme.

County Councillor Giles Howard explained, "When the tenders were returned it was found that the groundwork costs were excessively costly for the Countryside budget.

"If it was a case of replacing like with like then this would not be an issue, however this is not possible because new or replacement structures must be Disability Discrimination Act compliant.

"In addition the Environment Agency has requested that the height of the bridge deck should reflect one in 1000 year flood event levels.

"Whether the watercourse is a trickle or a torrent we also have to have permission from the EA to both work in and around it; and approval of any proposed structures.

"In order to get the correct gradients to comply with the disability act this would either mean very long ramps, which would intrude into the Meadows for a fair distance or the agreed 'switchback' option."

It's the groundworks for the switchback option which has made the scheme become so costly as more than 700 tons of the 'right type of soil' is needed to be imported onto the site to give the bridge structure the support and foundations it needs.

Councillor Howard said this was unacceptable and added, "It was decided to go back to the Environment Agency and renegotiate to have the bridge height lowered to reflect a one in 100 year flood event.

"I am unsure what the physical difference in height will be, but it should make a big difference to groundwork costs when re-tendered.

"I understand that this has once again been approved by the Environment Agency and we are waiting for confirmation by way of a written permit.

"We hope and aim that the bridge and associated works will be undertaken in the spring."

•The July Bryn-y-Cwm Area Committee meeting agreed to the establishment of a Castle Meadows Task and Finish Group which will adopt a green infrastructure approach when it reviews and updates the management plan for the meadows and, where appropriate, adjacent green spaces.

The group will investigate spreading beyond the meadows, to ensure that a planned approach is adopted to address access, community involvement, educational, conservation, landscape and heritage issues.

As part of the group's tasks they would be investigating the terms of the agricultural tenancy on the land as in the past there had been a number of complaints with regard to stock that was kept on Castle Meadows.

It was hoped that with the reconstruction of the Gavenny Bridge and the completed management plan that the area could be submitted for Green Flag status at the end of 2013.