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Rodley bridge branded ‘not fit for purpose’ after latest incidents – company points to vandalism and user error

By John Baron

The installation of a new bridge in Rodley has been branded a ‘shambles’ after a boat owner was stuck for more than five hours due to problems with the closing mechanism.

The new manual bridge linking the former Airedale Mills site to the other side of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal has failed to open and close properly several times since it was installed in January, leaving cars and pedestrians stranded for hours at a time.

A further two incidents were recorded in the past 48 hours, the most recent left the bridge stuck for over five hours meaning visitors and volunteers at nearby Rodley Nature Reserve were had to leave via a farmers’ field.

Problems with the bridge left the canal blocked.

The bridge is due to lead to a planned ‘island’ housing development of up to 76 new homes, which is awaiting planning permission.

And the latest incidents have led to renewed calls for problems with the bridge to be resolved once and for all.

But developer Dynamic Capital and Investments says the latest issues are down to a combination of boater error and vandalism – and is set to produce a video, accessed via QR code on a mobile phone, to show boat owners how to use it properly.

Airedale Mills: The site where the development will take place, pictured here by Google Maps in 2009.

Jeremy Knapp, from Rodley Nature Reserve, said: “Colleagues are very anxious about the problems with the canal bridge. 

“We had hoped with the bridge in place and remedial work to ‘re-balance’ it completed things would get back to normal. However problems for our volunteers and visitors continue as shown by bridge failures on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. 

“We are wondering how long it will be before we get a reliable bridge in place that is easy to use,  and reliable means 100%, 99% won’t be enough.”

Residents took to social media, where they vented their concerns.

Stephen Appleby posted: “Complete shambles, just think if there were houses over there and a fire?”

Another commented: “Rodley Cricket Club will be opening this weekend and with the bridge as it is it has disaster written all over it!”

Another said: “Same thing happened yesterday tea time… boat owner had to leave his key as he couldn’t wait any longer for assistance.”

And a visitor at Rodley Nature Reserve added: “I had to leave the nature reserve via the farmers’ field up to Horsforth, that bridge isn’t fit for purpose.”

One reader contacted WLD to say the bridge is causing a “debacle when boaters are not able to close it.”

moss bridge rodley
The original Moss Bridge was demolished by developers last year – but installing its replacement has caused problems. Photo: Mark Stevenson

The bridge was removed in January 2022 with work expected to be finished within months. However delays caused many concerns and difficulties within the community, including the nature reserve and Rodley Cricket Club, who both rely on the bridge for access. The new bridge opened in January.

Paul Ross, Managing Director at Dynamic Capital and Investments, strongly refuted suggestions that the bridge ‘wasn’t fit for purpose’, agreeing that there had been initial teething problems but that these have been resolved and that the bridge has gone through a rigorous design process, meeting the approval of the council, Yorkshire Water and the Canal and Rivers Trust.

Mr Ross said he understood people’s frustration around the bridge delays but said it meets all current legislation and is in fully working order.

In a statement issued to WLD, he said: “Our company placed an order on a design and build basis with Land and Water Services Ltd for the installation of a new bridge at Moss Bridge Road, which has taken longer to construct than the original timescale provided by the contractor.

“The bridge operation was inspected by officers of the council [on Tuesday] morning and it was operating within the design specification. However, we believe the bridge may well have been subjected to targeted vandalism which caused some further issues yesterday. This has been reported to the police under an existing crime reference number. We are pleased to confirm that this has now been resolved and the bridge is back in operation. 

“It has also come to our attention that some boaters have had difficulty in understanding the operational procedure which in turn has caused damage. We are currently doing a video that will explain the bridges operation and will be activated by a QR code located on the control panel of the bridge. 

“We are as equally concerned as the community of any issues in relation to the bridge and will do everything possible to rectify any further issues.”

Mr Ross said he was paying for people to help marshal and support boat owners using the bridge this weekend and was happy to meet the ‘reasonable costs’ of both the cricket club and the nature reserve.

He added he was ‘extremely distressed’ for the issues with the scheme and was happy to meet people to discuss their concerns.

Councillor Kevin Ritchie (Lab, Bramley & Stanningley) said: “Yesterday’s events were unacceptable and the bridge needs to be fully safe and operational. And I am still not happy with the detailed plans for housing for the site, which I feel is being over-developed.”

Cllr Amanda Carter (Cons, Calverley & Farsley) added: “I’ve reported this to the council, just to keep them informed how useless this bridge is. It could be life or death if there were houses built there and emergency services could not get through.”

Outline – in principle – planning permission to develop the disused Airedale Mills site was granted by Leeds City Council in 2019.

Under that agreement, contractors were supposed to replace the old swing bridge linking Moss Bridge Road with Town Street in Rodley, on the other side of the water.

A decision on the detailed plans submitted by Casa by Moda was deferred by councillors on the south and west plans panel in February, to allow for further discussions between council officers to take place.

Issues included the layout and design of the site, off-site parking and the lack of a meaningful green space contribution. The application will come back before councillors at a future date.

8 COMMENTS

  1. In the past I’ve seen single / one person operator barge users going through this area with no problems at all

    Okay, now along come a boats-man on his tod – ties up and successfully opens the new bridge

    They now walk back to Ross mills bridge OR on to bridge road where the Rodley Barge pub is , along the tow path. Gets on their barge and sails through the opening – once again tying up the barge and retracing his steps back Ali g Town Street in order to close the bridge- cross over and onto his barge to continue on his merry way.

    Time taken equates to a person dying of heart failure / injuries or several brand new houses burning to the ground !!

    Well done to the bridge designers and installers.
    I bet that not one of them will move into any of the intended properties

    Dave Pearson

  2. Surely the method of operating the bridge should be easy enough for anyone to understand quickly, especially as it is going to be the only access route to a significant number of houses, not to mentions the Reserve and the cricket club. And what good is a QR code feature if you haven’t got a smartphone?

  3. Same old story, carried out on the cheap, designed by people and a company that submitted a design to the cheapest options with absolutely no thought or consideration for the ultimate end users of the bridge structure, either boat owners, pedestrians, or future residents.

    The ‘NEW’ bridge and it’s intended use was designed and built for one purpose only, to obtain planning permission at the cheapest possible price and options available to pass it through a planning committee that has no real idea what is involved in the correct and proper construction of such a structure and how it would be used by the people who would ultimately be left in the position of using what has now clearly been shown to be a totally unsuitable structure that should be condemmed and replaced with a bridge structure that will operate and be suitable for all those who would require to use it.

    The only way to resolve this issue, is for a full and proper public invitation to submit a tender, overseen by the planning committee who shoulkd appoint an independent fully qualified engineering company, for the design and build of a new replacement bridge structure that is built to the correct and proper requirements that the new bridge will have to face and endure for its forseeable lifetime of service, then, and only then, will a new replacement bridge structure be provided that is fit and proper for the intended service it would be built for.

  4. It’s an absolute farce, and the fact that the developer’s are trying to point the finger of blame at anyone but themselves is embarrassing. Poor design, poor implementation and all done on the cheap without any consideration for the residents who will have to tolerate the complete inconvenience this will continue to cause long after the developers have pocketed their cash and disappeared in to the sunset. The councillors for LCC who continue to push this development, even after everything they can see is wrong, are equally culpable. Thank god we have a small number of local councilors on the side of the residents fighting our corner. LCC planning department should be investigated, something suspect is going off down there.

  5. All very relevant comments ,all common sense .Pity LCC planing department and some on those in planning panel dont use common sense.Only have to look at you tube video of the planning meeting and see how it was run ,how disgusting and very un-professional
    some were. And some of the statements the engineer made were to say the least not correct .He said that they were doing things to put things right and they would eliminate the problems,but they seem to be worse so how many goes are they going to change things .As poeple say it is not fit for purpose .And the main point is if this bridge fails when there are houses over there( and it can as we have seen )and there is a major incident how will emergency get over .And their engineer stated mechanical things don’t break ?

  6. In today’s technological age, what’s wrong with a one button press solution. Easy to blame user error but if the bridge had been designed properly in the first place then a stupid huge sign and QR code and video wouldn’t be needed. Whoever proposed and designed that solution is clearly an expert in nothing

  7. I used the bridge this morning. Two barges were waiting patiently for workers to amend the gear ratio from 1:1 to 2:1 meaning that one turn of the handle should now move the bridge twice as far as previously possible.
    I hope the bargees charge the bridge company £25 per hour for their wating time as that gearing ought to have been fitted from day one !!
    A guy from the firm is currently on site to instruct and assist boaters using the ” new improved ” bridge – what happens when all amendments are made and he is made redundant ??

  8. Been stuck at this bridge today for close to 7hrs at least a dozen calls to the emergency number with no callback at all asking to speak to a manager end’s with I’m ending this call now all I can say is as a boat owner this Company deserves to be taken to the cleaners for there inability to respond to a emergency even tho it’s there property

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