Views sought on bridge linking the A431 near Bitton with Saltford

Wessex Water has today announced it is consulting with local people on plans to build a new bridge across the River Avon from the A431 to access the Saltford Water Recycling Centre at Mead Lane.

As we have previously reported, Wessex Water first revealed controversial plans back in 2019 for a bridge over the Avon linking its sewage treatment plant at Saltford with the A431 on the edge of Swineford.

People in the Bitton and Swineford area voiced concerns about the extra heavy traffic which would be pushed on to the A431 and pointed out that Bitton is a conservation area.

Later that year Wessex Water’s chief executive Colin Skellett said the idea of a bridge had been dropped.

Wessex Water then looked instead at other options including building a new 1.6km road to connect to the A4 from Pixash Lane but said that none were suitable to provide the access needed to carry out major work to increase capacity at the Mead Lane site and to provide for the site’s long-term operational ability. Issues including environment impact, ecology, and stakeholders were all taken into consideration.

Instead they said last September that they would be pursuing the bridge option again and seeing how the plans could be revised to minimise its impact. 

Today Wessex Water said that letters have been sent to explain the scheme and ask for comments, while the company has consulted with both B&NES and South Gloucestershire councils.

The access road to the bridge from the A431 would be on the right

“Existing access to the Mead Lane site, which will be upgraded in the future, is difficult due to parked cars and flooding when river levels are high. A low bridge along the narrow route also affects access for some vehicles.

“Wessex Water plans to build a bridge that will provide a connection to the A431, which runs through Swineford and Bitton, and will massively improve the approach to the water recycling centre.

“The scheme also proposes creating a footpath linking the A431 to the local public right of way network and the River Avon Trail. This means people living on either side of the river would have access by foot across it. 

“There would be biodiversity and environmental improvements, including tree planting adjacent to both ends of the bridge. Wessex Water also proposes creating wetland habitats and working with local wildlife groups and others to identify other measures, such as supporting bat and bird species. 

“Alternative routes to the bridge have been explored, including a new 1.6 km road to connect to the A4, but this would have a significant impact on the Avon Valley landscape, result in much greater loss of Green Belt land and have a high impact on local ecology. 

“The existing access road will remain open to ensure the site can be reached from either side should there be the need, but there will be no through route for the public. 

“Wessex Water will be submitting its planning application for the bridge in the coming weeks but has asked for feedback on the proposals.”

Kelvin Brick, who is coordinating the project, said: “Saltford houses our regional scientific centre, analysing thousands of water supply and waste water samples a day from across our region. It is a key site that treats sewage to a high standard and safely returns it to the environment.

“Improving access to the water recycling centre is a key part of our plan and we have been exploring options over the last 18 months. We believe this bridge is the most viable route, minimising impact on the community and environment.”

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