Pooley Bridge needs lifeline if businesses are to survive
Sir, Your report (Herald, 11th November) that county councillors are to consider a rise of £11,000 in their annual pay bill should raise eyebrows everywhere.
This last week, I attended the third “consultation meeting” on the proposed replacement for Pooley Bridge. There was general approval of the proposed design.
However, having initially been led to believe that a permanent replacement would entail closure of the crossing for approximately 10 weeks — a period which, though damaging for businesses, could be accommodated within the off season — the revised estimate for closure had increased to nine months to which we must add allowance for slippage in the contract.
Representatives of the county council were then questioned about the feasibility of providing alternative access for pedestrians during the period of closure — for example by a temporary footbridge or ferry.
Their response was far from satisfactory. Despite government funding, we were told the budget did not include provision for any measure needed to give the village a commercial lifeline during the closure other than some improvements to signage.
There was no acknowledgement of the commercial threat to businesses, and council officers repeatedly referred to the stress and difficulty they themselves faced. It would have been much better if they had avoided the self-pity and explained how they could work with the community in resolving the issue as a matter of urgency.
The suggestion that fighting for the commercial future of the village was “running it down” was particularly inappropriate. The potential cost of damage to Cumbria’s economy far outweighs the cost of alternative pedestrian access for a limited period.
Closure of Pooley Bridge for what is effectively a whole season isolates it from the thousands of passengers coming to the steamer landing, access for cars via the A592 and entry to the national park from the north east.
Hundreds of thousands of visitors come each year to the village and it is the only destination for steamer passengers coming to the north end of the lake.
As well as access to the eastern shore of the lake being denied for those who wish to walk the scenic route back to Glenridding, the village will be starved of those seeking camping access and day trippers, the majority of whom come from the A592.
With this in mind, it is difficult to see how the businesses in the village can survive without alternative access across the river for pedestrians. Closure of the road will be bad enough but it is inevitable. The village needs a lifeline if businesses are to survive.
It is arguable that faced with a forced cut of £27 million in next year’s budget, much of which is attributable to legal costs and compensation in a fruitless law suit, the councillors should “share our pain” and deny themselves a pay rise.
This argument is strengthened when they take the rise but deny any consideration to those in need for no fault of their own. In the current absence of support from the county council, £11,000 would help in paying for the feasibility study that Pooley Bridge needs if it is to resolve this matter by self-help. Yours etc,