National Highways accused of 'corporate vandalism' after pumping hundreds of tonnes of concrete under historic bridge

Congham bridge in Norfolk

Congham bridge in Norfolk

National Highways
George Bunn

By George Bunn

Published: 22/05/2024

- 16:29

A hearing is taking place into the future of Congham Bridge in Norfolk

A planning enquiry has heard National Highways committed "corporate vandalism" when it poured hundreds of tonnes of concrete under a bridge.

The government agency claimed a historic railway bridge in Congham, Norfolk was at risk of collapse.

However, nearby residents claimed the work has wrecked a heritage asset to save money, instead of using a more "sympathetic" method.

There were 363 objections to the infilling in Congham, compared to just five people in favour.

\u200bThe condition of the historic Norfolk railway bridge

The condition of the historic Norfolk railway bridge

National Highways

One of those was Lindsay Beare, who said: "Immediate removal of the infill must be made, irrespective of cost. Corporate vandalism must not be allowed to prevail over the beauty of the English countryside for the expediency of lazy management."

The bridge dates back to 1926 and was designed by Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway's pioneering engineer William Marriott.

It is a rare survivor of crossings made from precast concrete components, reports the Daily Mail.

Some other objectors railed against the "desecration of a piece of architecture, purely because Highways England [as the agency was formerly known] want to save money" and warned the practice of infilling bridges was creating a "gross uglification of the countryside."

Cogham Bridge\u200b

Congham Bridge

National Highways

Representative for National Highways Martin Carter told the first day of the four-day hearing in King's Lynn: "The infilling of the bridge was an appropriate engineering response, due to the deterioration.

"The bridge is a non-designated heritage asset and only has community value – it has little aesthetic value."

However, clerk for Congham Parish Council Ophelia Donovan said: "The bridge acted as a wildlife corridor. It is now an eyesore. It harms the local amenities and is a blot on the landscape.

"Congham Parish Council wants it to be restored so it can be enjoyed by future generations."

Congham Bridge

The hearing into Congham Bridge continues

National Highways

Graeme Bickerdike, of the Historic Railways Estate group told the inquiry: "Justification for infilling has been retrofitted in response to public concern over the company's actions...The work was undertaken to reduce liabilities – they just wanted to get rid of it."

Timothy Leader, the barrister representing West Norfolk Council said: "It gives places such as Congham identity in a world of frenetic change.

"Conserve means to protect from harm, decay or loss. It is obvious the appellant's application has done nothing of the sort. Its aesthetic value has been all but destroyed… The issue to be decided is whether [National Highways] should be compelled to restore it.

The hearing continues.

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