Skip to main content

Bridges: Great Musgrave

Question for Department for Transport

UIN HL2311, tabled on 22 July 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they have had with Highways England about their work at Great Musgrave Bridge in Cumbria on why weight restrictions and repointing were not considered as an alternative to infilling; and what assessment they have made the cost of removing the infilling if retrospective planning permission is not granted.

Answered on

2 August 2021

The Department for Transport approved the works at Great Musgrave after being advised by Highways England that urgent action was needed on the grounds of public safety. This urgent need to act was due to the structure of the Great Musgrave bridge being weak and liable to cause the bridge deck to fall suddenly. The bridge was deteriorating, and no weight restriction was in place, meaning it could be used by vehicles of any weight; weight restrictions on bridges are the responsibility of the Local Highway Authority. A bridge assessment completed in 1998 confirmed that the bridge had a 17-tonne capacity, but no weight restrictions by the Local Highway Authority have been implemented.

The support provided by infilling removes the risk that the bridge deck will fall and means a weight limit is no longer required and the bridge will remain safe for everyone who wishes to use it.

Alternatives to infilling any bridge are assessed on a case-by-case basis and depend on the specific structure and the requirements for access being retained.

In the case of Great Musgrave, the aspiration locally is to re-open the route for use as a heritage railway line going under the bridge; it is not expected that this location would be used for a cycling and walking route. Before a heritage railway could be established, there are land ownership issues to be resolved and a replacement river bridge over the River Eden would need to be constructed.

The potential cost of removing the infilling depends on what is done with the fill material. If the fill material is disposed of offsite the estimated cost is £30,000. If it can be re-used to form a walking path, then it is more likely to be £10,000.

Removing the infill would then require appropriate protection and strengthening work for the bridge, which is dependent on the required use. For a heritage railway to be established under the bridge, not only would the bridge need strengthening, but excavation works would likely be required to ensure there is sufficient clearance.

The infill was carried after written confirmation from the Local Planning Authority was received that the works are classed as Permitted Development. Despite this, Highways England has agreed with the Local Planning Authority to submit formal retrospective planning application at the appropriate time.

The infill material will be covered with soil and seeded with grass and have the appearance of a grass embankment when completed; this will be similar in appearance to other projects, such as those at Tadcaster and Lochaber.