The Old Tram Bridge received a multi-coloured makeover as dusk descended over Avenham Park.
Lights were projected onto the structure – which dates back almost 220 years – to promote a petition calling on Preston City Council to use its forthcoming bid to the government’s Levelling Up Fund to secure the cash needed to restore the historic connection between Preston and South Ribble.
The footbridge, which is also a cycle route and bridleway, was closed two-and-a-half years ago after an inspection found over 200 defects – some of which put it in danger of sudden collapse. It is estimated that it would cost around £6m to build a replacement.
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As the Post revealed earlier this month, Lancashire County Council has said it would support a pitch for government regeneration money – but only if the bid itself was made by the city authority.
Saturday’s light display, staged by Chorley-based CDS Events, came during a weekend of heritage events in Preston. The Friends of Tram Bridge group had stationed themselves in Avenham Park earlier in the day – and persuaded over 300 people to add their names to the petition, set up by former Preston city councillor Daniel Dewhurst.
Glenn Cookson, chair of the friends group, said he was confident that “many more” would show their support having been approached by campaigners when they were passing through the park over the weekend. As of Sunday afternoon, the petition was nearing 2,000 signatures – and Glenn hopes that the “majestic” pictures of the lit-up bridge will remind Prestonians of its beauty.
“We just wanted to highlight that it remains closed and that there is still a lot of work to be done. Although we have made good progress, we need Preston City Council to formally submit a bid under the Levelling Up Fund.
“It’s an iconic landmark and a crossing that played a huge role in the industrial revolution. While it is an important piece of history, first and foremost, it’s also a vital walkway and cycleway, which can help reduce our carbon emissions if it makes it easier for people to travel between Preston and South Ribble,” Glenn added.
Preston City Council leader Matthew Brown said earlier this month that it was important to “consider the different priorities for the city” when assessing which projects should form the basis of the authority’s Levelling Up Fund bid.
“I am particularly passionate about ensuring any funding helps address structural inequalities in Preston as we recover from the pandemic,” Cllr Brown told the Post.
District councils like Preston can apply for up to £20m to finance either one proposal or a package of linked schemes up to that value. If any part of their bid is transport-related, they must have the backing of the highways authority for their area – in Preston’s case, Lancashire County Council.
Lancashire County Council itself is also intending to make a bid for a single £50m transport scheme under the Levelling Up Fund – ruling out the Old Tram Bridge as a potential project for County Hall’s own pitch to the government.
A second round of applications to the fund is expected to open later this year.
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