A DISUSED railway bridge that has become a notorious fly tipping location looks set to get a new lease of life.
A partnership between cycling and walking charity Greenways and Cycleroutes Ltd and National Highways, custodian of the UK’s Historical Railways Estate, hope the bridge will support a new active travel route for cyclists, walkers and wheelchair and mobility scooter users.
Stump Cross Bridge carries Ridge Road in Shepton Mallet over the disused Cheddar Valley railway line.
It had fallen into disrepair, with its three arches partially filled by local landowners, and had become a hot spot for dumping rubbish.
Since taking over custodianship of the structure in 2013, National Highways has cleared up the site and undertaken works to the bridge to ensure safe load carrying, as well as installing a bat 'hotel'.
Greenways and Cycleroutes have been working with the former Mendip Council, and now Somerset Council, to construct several missing sections along the planned 32-mile greenway and active travel route from Clevedon to Shepton Mallet.
Priority is being given to completing the five-mile Wells and Shepton Mallet section to bypass heavily trafficked roads and hilly terrain.
Making a safe crossing of Ridge Road is central to realising this section.
Hélène Rossiter, head of the Historical Railways Estate at National Highways, said: “We're really excited about Greenways and Cycleroutes aspirations for this site and are working closely with them to support their plans for another one of our structures to connect with the popular Strawberry Line.
“We look after more than 3,100 historical railway structures across the UK and this is a great opportunity to bring one of them back into use.
"We know that there is strong community support for repurposing Stump Cross Bridge."
A spokesperson for Greenways and Cycleroutes said: “We are delighted to be working with National Highways to link the routes that we have negotiated either side of this busy road to create a memorable greenway and wheelchair friendly route.”
A spokesperson for the Strawberry Line Society said: “We are hopeful that a safe passage under this heavily trafficked road can be achieved.
"In recent years, Ridge Road has become a busy 'bypass' to Shepton Mallet, and therefore increasingly dangerous to cross.
"We look forward to working with HRE to provide the best possible route past Ridge Road for vulnerable path users.”
David Carter, service director (infrastructure and transport), at Somerset Council, said: “We are pleased to see the partnership working between National Highways and Greenways delivering this important piece of infrastructure to bring a historic structure back into public service.”