Update received on 14th January from the LCC Area Highways Manager:
“We have started work to the bridge wing walls and to the collapsed carriageway at the Hornby side, and do not envisage any further problems with these issues.
With are extremely concerned about the structure of the bridge, and are relieved that there have not been repeats of the storms which could have resulted in the loss of this structure (which is Grade II* Listed and is a Scheduled Ancient Monument).
Both piers have been badly damaged by the flooding events and by debris in the river, and we are concerned at the displacement and loss of stonework. The bridge appears stable at the moment, and we have taken immediate measures to safeguard it by installing filter-bag protection. (Pic) These are placed immediately around the cutwaters to provide in-fill to the void, offer support to the structure and deflect the power of the water / debris in any subsequent storms.
Our main concern is that the lost stonework has exposed the rubble filling inside the core of the bridge and there is now significant loss of fill within the structure. Basically, the structure now contains substantial voids making the entire bridge unsafe to loads, and It is not safe to re-open the road until the bridge has been repaired. We are concerned about any loads being put on the structure at all.
This matter is with our Bridges Engineering team now, who are working on the repair solutions, as a priority. Clearly, permanent repairs will require favourable conditions in the river, and agreements with other parties (which are not always straight forward given the status of the bridge).
It is with regret, that I must inform you, that we anticipate that this bridge will remain closed until the end of April 2016. This is a reflection of the magnitude of the damage caused, and of our concern.
While we have already put together some plans to repair the piers, we still require the consent of English Heritage on issues such as the sourcing of acceptable new stone to replace that which has been lost, and there could be English Heritage consent issues with our plans for grouting the voids within the bridge structure itself.
We also need to agree a method of access and environmental consent concerned with undertaking substantial works within the river.
For information, we considered whether it was feasible to deploy a temporary bridge pending permanent repairs, but there are many factors that militate against this including: the width of the river, which would require temporary piers in the river channel; the terrain on the approaches, which would require substantial temporary approach ramps to be constructed and the timescale within which a temporary bridge could be constructed, which is of a similar duration to that required for the permanent repairs.”
Gressingham Parish Council