Ex city councillor Daniel Dewhurst says he wants local people to produce designs and ideas for a new crossing over the River Ribble to replace the "eyesore" Old Tram Bridge which has been closed for nearly three years after being declared unsafe.
The competition will be judged by an independent panel and the first prize winner will receive a cash price of £1,000 with a range of other prizes for runners-up.
Daniel said: "The boarded-up bridge straddling Preston and South Ribble is an eyesore – not only for local residents who have witnessed its demise, but to visitors of Avenham Park who are left with a less than ideal lasting impression of our city.
"My main aim is to encourage residents to take an interest in our city’s heritage whilst drawing attention to the clear environmental benefits of reopening the bridge, which connects the communities of Preston and South Ribble, and can be used by walkers, runners and cyclists."
The bridge dates back to 1802 and it's been predicted a replacement bridge could cost up to £8m to build. Daniel has been campaigning for Preston City Council to apply for funding from the Government's Levelling Up fund to progress the work. He hopes the contest will help spur the council into action to seek funding.
He continued: "Preston City Council cannot afford to wait until the bridge falls into a worse state. If it doesn’t take the initiative now, there’s a real possibility the bridge will remain closed indefinitely, which would be a blow to local residents and to the wider Preston community. The council must realise that the Levelling Up Fund is the best opportunity Preston has to reopen the Old Tram Bridge crossing in one guise or another."
The competition is being supported by local businesses and organisations including Studio John Bridge, public relations and marketing agency Fifty2M, David Cox Architects, Michael Bailey estate agents and the Friends of Tram Bridge.
Architect John Bridge said: "It may not be what most people think of as an iconic design, but the Old Tram Bridge is certainly a much-loved heritage asset. It would be great to see it replaced with something that echoes its rich history but with a modern twist that can be enjoyed by many more generations to come."
In addition a £250 photography prize will be awarded for the best photograph of the Old Tram Bridge taken during December or January.
The competition is open for entries from today until January 31, 2022, with winners to be announced on February 13, 2022.
In addition to the top prize of £1,000 there will be runner up prizes of £500, £250 and £150. The Friends of the Tram Bridge have sponsored ten £25 Waterstones voucher prizes for entrants aged under 16. Two internships are also being offered as part of the prize package - two weeks with David Cox Architects and two weeks with the John Bridge Design Studio.
The photography prize has been sponsored by Audi Preston.
Entry to the competition is free but entrants are asked to consider making a donation to the Samaritans. The contest brief advises: "There are no set criteria for the style of designs; entries are encouraged to show innovation with designs drawn by hand or electronically, reflecting both the heritage of the Old Tram Bridge and the local Avenham and Winckley Square area."
Entrants are asked to include a description of their imagined bridge and their inspiration behind their design and the competition website advises: "The Old Tram Bridge Competition will give people in Preston the opportunity to submit their designs for what a ‘New Tram Bridge’ could look like if Preston City Council secures the necessary funding to rebuild the structure, and repairs alone are not viable."
The contest website includes criticism of Preston Council, claiming: "Despite its importance to the local community, Preston City Council has failed to produce any concrete plans to restore it, presumably due to budget shortfalls or because they failed to secure the necessary funding. Previously, the Old Tram Bridge formed part of Lancashire County Council’s Transforming Cities Fund (TCF), and while Preston benefits from this significant investment, proposals to repair the bridge under this scheme were unsuccessful. Since then, both authorities have warned that unless external funding is found, the bridge will remain closed, falling into even greater disrepair."
The statement continues: "Preston could still be awarded up to £20 million in the second round of (Levelling Up) funding to invest in projects such as the Old Tram Bridge, which in turn could unlock £7 million of investment in Avenham and create local jobs."
But Coun David Borrow, cabinet member for planning and regulation at Preston City Council, said: "We acknowledge and understand there is a strong local interest in the Old Tram Bridge, but also recognise that the necessary works it requires includes significant investment which will need to be considered against other priorities in the city.”
He said the Council would be bidding for Levelling up cash in Round 2. It had chosen not to bid for Levelling Up funding in Round 1 as it was anticipated further funding would be made available to priority areas to help create bids.
Coun Borrow said: "In 2021 Government published a Levelling Up Fund prospectus. This stated that there will be several bidding rounds for the Levelling Up Fund, with projects expected to be completed by 2025. Government stated that any submitted projects to this fund need to be sufficiently developed, in line with treasury standard business cases... The Government has said that further detail on how the Fund will operate from 2022-23 onwards will be set out later this year. This has still not been published."
He continued: "Preston City Council intends to bid under Round 2, using the further information provided to ensure we get the best deal for the city. A report, setting out how the Council will consult and consider potential schemes, was approved by the Cabinet in November. As this funding can be utilised for a range of projects it is important that we consider the different priorities and schemes for Preston, including high street regeneration, local transport and health projects that could all benefit from this funding."
Full contest details can be found here or at www. studiojohnbridge.co.uk/old-tram-road-bridge-design-competition
* Studio John Bridge has previously produced its own design for a new garden bridge spanning the Ribble. It described that design as: "Preston’s Living Bridge. A 21st century engineered timber bridge, stronger and tougher than its historic predecessors as it draws it strength from curves and multi-joints. It harnesses energy through water turbines, give the strong current in the River Ribble, which provides excess electricity to power Avenham Park and Old Tram Way lighting. Making it not only safer in the evening, but hugely attractive and seeks to become an ‘evening walk’ sensation. Elliptical viewing ports allow visitors / commuters to see the river and columns below them."
For more on the future of the Tram Bridge see here and here and hereFor our report on the Garden Bridge proposed by Studio John Bridge see here * The Lancashire Post is more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription to support our journalism. For unlimited access to Lancashire news and information online, you can subscribe here.