Councillor Paul Newman is delighted that a bid has been submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund for money to help re-open Lydbrook Rail Bridge.

The bridge is owned jointly by Herefordshire Council and Gloucestershire Council and Cllr Newman is an active member of the Reopen the Black Bridge Steering Group.

He said it is a vital link helping to bring tourists, and their money, to the area and is very important for visitors to the Youth Hostel at Welsh Bicknor.

Known locally as Stowfield Viaduct, or the Black Bridge, the 19th century former railway structure spans the River Wye.

It is an important connection between Gloucestershire and Herefordshire and is used by more than 20,000 walkers every year as part of the 136 mile Wye Valley Walk.

The footpath across it has been closed since 2016 when an inspection confirmed sections of the bridge were in very poor condition and unsafe.

Extensive repairs are needed before it can be reopened so Gloucestershire County Council is working with Herefordshire Council to secure its long term future.

On March 15th a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund was made to request financial help to repair the structure. The bid was prepared with input from the two councils, the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Amey and the Black Bridge Steering Group.

Specifically, the bid concentrated on enhancing the historic bridge for future generations, restoring pedestrian access and developing community led engagement in research, interpretation and celebrations.

If the bid is successful, funding of £97,900 would be awarded for the project to be developed, and for a solution to be designed. This would take place between October 2018 and June 2019.

The full design would then be considered by the Heritage Lottery Fund for a second stage of funding. This would take place between October 2019 and May 2021. If successful, the second award is estimated to be worth £1,670,250 and this would fund the construction work and community support projects.

Andrew Blake, Wye Valley AONB Manager said: “We’ve worked closely with our partners on this lottery bid, and in finding a viable solution to reopen Lydbrook Bridge. It’s one of the three remaining former railway bridges spanning the River Wye, and it’s a strategic crossing for walkers. We look forward to the success of this application and working with interested parties to restore this historic structure for the benefit of locals and visitors to this outstanding part of the Wye Valley AONB.”

Cllr Vernon Smith, cabinet member for highways said: “We really want to conserve the Lydbrook Bridge and enhance it for generations to come. Money from the Lottery Heritage Fund would help us to get it repaired and open once again. We’d also like to celebrate its heritage in the local community.”

Cllr Sid Phelps for the Black Bridge Steering Group said: “Our group and the communities on both sides of the river are very pleased that the lottery bid has been successfully submitted, thanks to much work by the Wye Valley AONB and council officers. We’re keeping our fingers and toes crossed for the bid in restoring the bridge so that this important strategic crossing can re-open as soon as possible”.

Cllr Barry Durkin, cabinet member for transport and regulatory services at Herefordshire Council said: “We’re committed to restoring this former railway bridge and enabling safe access across it, for the benefit of locals and the many, many walkers that use it. A successful lottery bid will enable this to happen sooner, something that will be welcomed by all who wish to enjoy the outstanding natural beauty of the Wye Valley.