Landmark £5m bridge to cross valley between Oldham and Tameside approved

A new £5m bridge which would link Oldham and Tameside across the Medlock Valley has been given the green light.

The nearly 128 metre-long bridge in Park Bridge will stand higher than six double-decker buses and will run along the route of a historic brick railway viaduct. It is aimed at making the popular countryside spot, once the site of a large ironworks, easier to traverse for cyclists and walkers, and forms part of the regional Bee Network.

Oldham council, which submitted the planning application, stated that it would create a ‘new landmark’ in the area, celebrating its industrial heritage.

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Now the borough’s planning committee has unanimously granted approval to the plans. Committee chair Councillor Peter Dean, who moved that they grant permission to the project, said: “A bridge over the Medlock Valley, you could make a song out of that.”

Planning officer Graham Dickman told the meeting the valley currently is wooded with steep sides with crossings at the lower level.

“At the moment there is an element there where it crosses the valley where the cycle route in particular has to take an inconvenient diversion through the site,” he added. “This area where the old viaduct used to be is where the new bridge is going to go, so effectively it’s reinstating a feature that was there previously.

“The reasoning for this is to improve cycle and footpath networks across the borough – not necessarily intending that people come and visit the bridge itself from here, it’s that they will use it and it will improve facilities to get through the site.”

Currently walking and cycling routes between Oldham and Ashton-under-Lyne on the national cycle network do not meet Bee Network standards, according to the planning documents. This is because walkers and bike riders have to take a ‘steep’ one kilometre diversionary route through the Medlock Valley which is not ‘accessible to everyday cyclists or those with a buggy or mobility issues’.

The Bee Network, has been designed to improve travel across the city region by encouraging more people to leave their cars at home and use specifically designed safer routes.

It would run along the route of a historic brick railway viaduct
(Image: Oldham council)

Oldham’s local authority is aiming to secure funding for the bridge’s construction from the Greater Manchester Mayor’s Challenge Fund for ‘active travel’. The structure, which would stand more than 30 metres above the ground at its highest point, could open within ‘the next couple of years’ if no hurdles are encountered, bosses have stated.

The design aims to provide ‘spectacular’ views across the valley and a new access point to the Northern Roots site – planned as the UK’s largest urban farm and eco-park on land at Snipe Clough. It will be built out of steel girders which would weather over the years to provide an ‘industrial look’ in line with the borough’s heritage.

The bridge itself would measure five metres widthways to accommodate both cyclists and walkers simultaneously.

There had been six letters of objection and two letters of support lodged against the scheme. One of the objections raised concerns that the bridge could result in loss of life.

Speaking at the planning meeting on Wednesday evening, Coun Alicia Marland said a bridge over a dual carriageway had to be ‘covered over to prevent any loss of life’ and asked what prevention measures were being taken on the valley bridge.

Councillors were told that a parapet along the sides of the bridge would stand 2.4 metres high, the full detailed specification of which would need to be approved at condition stage.

The project would also includes an upgrade and paving of around 200 metres of an existing part of the Oldham Bardsley recreation route.

And a new footpath and cycle path also running around 200 metres from the southern bridge landing point on the Tameside site would also be created.

Oldham council staff have been working with Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) and Tameside council on the bridge proposal. A speaker on behalf of Oldham council said: “There have been high level discussions about the ongoing costs of the bridge in terms of the whole life costs – that’s between Tameside and Oldham, no definitive decisions has been made as yet.”

However he added it was ‘unlikely to be a shared responsiblity’. “Usually it’s designated to one authority or another,” he added.

The application is set to go before Tameside’s planning committee next week for a decision on the plan as it crosses the boundary between the boroughs.

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Manchester Evening News – Oldham