"I REFER to the article in last week’s edition concerning the proposed pedestrian and cycle bridge over the River Tone.

The Council’s policy to encourage cycling as a sustainable mode of transport is welcome. However, there should be a balance between achieving this laudable aim and maintaining an attractive environment. The current proposal shows there can be a conflict.

The River Tone is an important asset to the town and the stretch between the Priorswood Road Bridge and the Town Bridge is particularly attractive.

It is a popular place for walking, picnicking and relaxing, and there are fine views up and down the river. If the council is to take the town’s garden status seriously this resource should be protected and enhanced.

Unfortunately, the current proposal does not. The design of the bridge is grim and is reminiscent of a Second World War Bailey Bridge.

It is a very poor successor to the existing and elegant bridges in Goodland Gardens and at Morrison’s. There are many brilliant designs for new pedestrian bridges, is this the standard of design we should be accepting in the much vaunted Garden Town? Worse still is the impact of the access ramps.

On the north side of the river the construction of the ramp involves the demolition of the bandstand and associated canopies as well as destroying the surrounding urban space. This will be replaced by bridge abutments and steps which will block the view of the river through the avenue of trees.

The access ramps extend to almost 40m in length and are constructed of metal with a void underneath. Side panels will be installed to prevent people entering the void and there will be 1.4m high safety railings.

The ramps will consequently obscure views of the river from both sides and the banked sitting area alongside Somerset Square will have no view at all.

Five mature Maple trees will be felled on the north side. The Council appears not to appreciate the importance of these trees which form part of an avenue extending from the Morrison’s Bridge to the Priory Bridge Road.

Primarily amenity trees, they are an integral part of the landscape structure. Felling would be a serious loss and the Council’s undertaking to replace them with trees planted elsewhere may save the planet but does nothing to repair the environmental damage. What is so disappointing is that the river and the existing well designed and mature landscaping is not valued by the Council.

The proposed bridge will not materially “improve accessibility to jobs, services and community facilities” because Morrison’s Bridge, only 50m away, already achieves this. Although cyclists are requested to dismount here, is this really such a hardship?

The bridge has a good safety record largely due to its design and cyclists generally exercise caution. They are able to dismount if there is a need and consequently both cyclists and pedestrians are comparatively safe.

In contrast, the design of the proposed bridge favours the cyclist above the pedestrian. The smooth alignment of both the ramps and on the bridge will encourage speed rather than caution, and this will be particularly dangerous as pedestrians and cyclists are not segregated.

On balance, the perceived merits of the scheme do not outweigh the environmental damage. Let us hope the Council thinks again and will consider other options."