Instagram bridge in Haverfordwest described as “good value for Pembrokeshire taxpayers”

THE construction of a new levelling-up-supported footbridge in the centre of Haverfordwest is to continue, with senior councillors hearing it was “good value for Pembrokeshire taxpayers”.

At the March meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet, members awarded the contract to Walters Group Ltd for the Haverfordwest ‘signature’ footbridge and Western Quayside Phase 2 project.

The signature bridge scheme, in the Haverfordwest’s conservation area, also includes a ‘plaza’ public realm reconfiguration and enhancement; and repair, renewal and refurbishment of the former Cleddau Foundry building.

It forms part of the ‘Heart of Pembrokeshire’ regeneration project, which was previously awarded a Levelling Up Fund grant.

It is part of a wider regeneration of the county town, which includes works at the town’s castle, the ‘Ocky White’ Western Quayside retail development and a new transport interchange on the site of the former multi-storey car park.

Concerns about the bridge – and potential costs – have previously been raised, and the design of the new bridge has previously been labelled an ‘Instagrammable’ bridge by Councillor Rhys Jordan.

The existing bridge has been described as in “fair to poor condition,” adding that, while the steel members are still in serviceable condition, there are underside elements with “extensive corrosion throughout”.

Councillors have previously heard the cost of the ‘signature’ bridge project amounts to £5.7m out of an overall Heart of Pembrokeshire budget of £25.4m; of that money, external funding of £17.7m (70 per cent) has been secured for the overall project and £5.1m (90 per cent) secured for the bridge project.

This leaves council costs at £7.7m for the overall project, and some £600,000 for the bridge and associated works, a report for members said, with costs to date for the two projects amounting to £3.9m for the Heart of Pembrokeshire project, and £1.1m for the bridge only.

Fears have been expressed that simply a like-for-like replacement of the existing footbridge – at a circa £900,000 cost – rather than what has been agreed could put levelling-up funding in jeopardy, leaving the council to foot the total bill.

At the early March meeting, Council Leader David Simpson said: “If we cancelled the actual bridge now we would lose the 90 per cent funding; it would cost us more than for a really nice bridge in the centre of town, and to me is an asset to the community.”

After the contract was awarded, a special scrutiny committee meeting was held in late March following a successful ‘call-in’ by the council’s Conservative and Independent groups, with the matter returning to a special meeting of the county council’s Cabinet, on April 4 “for further clarification around the quotes and cost estimations to maintain the bridge to ensure that statements that have been made by cabinet members in the public realm are accurate”.

At the April 4 extraordinary Cabinet meeting, Deputy Leader Cllr Paul Miler moved the comments at the scrutiny committee be noted and the bridge proceed, as moved at the March Cabinet meeting, adding that Cllr Simpson stood by the comments he made about the bridge project.

Members heard the cost of a replacement like-for-like bridge had been costed at £931,000, which would be added to the £1.1m incurred to date; the ‘signature’ bridge option costing the council a total of £567,000 in match-funding.

Cabinet Member for Residents’ Services Cllr Rhys Sinnett said the project was “an integral part of the vision of the future of Haverfordwest,” backed by 90 per cent funding from the UK government.

“There is a real belief this will be a catalyst to help the regeneration of Haverfordwest; it also is good value for the Pembrokeshire taxpayers,” he added.

Cllr Miller said “a vibrant built environment” was recognised by the administration as crucial, rather than “a retail centre that’s seen its best days,” citing the current council’s redevelopment of the town’s Riverside area.

He referenced his recent channelling the famous phrase of President Kennedy and his 1960s promise to land a man on the moon before the end of that decade, repeating: “We’re doing this because it’s hard, not because it’s easy.”

He added: “These things are not easy, and I get that some people say the council shouldn’t get involved, but I think they are wrong; we’ve got to ensure a prosperous future for our town centres.”

Members unanimously backed Cllr Miller’s recommendation.

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