Lib Dem Monroe Palmer raises issue of Faversham Swing Bridge in the House of Lords
Originally published by Liberal Democrats on Kent County Council
Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords, Monroe Palmer, who lives in Faversham has raised the issue of Faversham Creek Bridge in Parliament.
Lord Palmer has challenged Conservative Ministers over why Faversham's Bridge is still not repaired, leaving local people and businesses without the ability to move boats up and down the Creek because of the broken bridge.
It comes on the back of:
- A broken promise by Conservative-run Kent County Council to repair the bridge.
- A huge amount of fundraising among local people.
- The County finding that its cost estimates were wrong and more money is needed.
- Peel Ports denying any responsibility despite owning the former Medway Ports Authority area which covers Faversham.
- Legal advice obtained from a top barrister by Lib Dem-run Faversham Town Council stating that Peel Ports probably have a legal duty to repair the Swing Bridge.
- The legal advice also says that the Government has legal power to make Peel Ports (or if they can prove someone else is responsbile, that body) repair Faversham's Swing Bridge.
Since August 2021, Faversham Town Council and the local Lib Dem team have been calling on the government to use its powers and get us our bridge.
Lord Palmer tabled a Written Question in September and followed this up with an oral question on Tuesday (15/11/22)
It is thought to be the fist time the issue has been raised in Parliamentary proceedings as the town's Conservative MP has not done so.
In a shocking response, the Minister indicated the Conservative government is not planning to act against Peel Ports.
Kent Lib Dem Leader Antony Hook has written to the Minister challenging her answer to Lord Palmer. His email to the Minister will be published on this website later today.
Lord Palmer's full exchange with the Minister is below:
To ask His Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the need to secure the urgent repair of swing bridges that block the passage of boats, which risk harming economic growth and domestic tourism.
My Lords, assessments on the repair status of swing bridges would most likely fall to the relevant local authority and/or the bridge owner with responsibility for that infrastructure, which may differ from bridge to bridge. Similarly, we would expect the wider impacts of bridge condition to be assessed by those bodies, or by other local parties with a relevant interest. As such, my department would not generally undertake such assessments unless it had responsibility for a specific infrastructure asset.
I thank the Minister. I declare my interest as a resident of Faversham in Kent. Six years ago, a new swing bridge was promised to the people of Faversham. Money was raised for this purpose. Peel Ports, the sort of organisation that the Minister referred to, has responsibility for providing an opening bridge and sluice gates. Can the Minister confirm that, despite what she says, the Secretary of State has a legal power to issue an abatement notice and order repair by Peel Ports? Further requested documentation was sent to the Secretary of State on 2 March. Can the Minister report on this overdue work, which will greatly assist business and tourism in this heritage town? The Government do have a responsibility.
We might go back and forth on this. I have looked into this matter. I spoke to the Member of Parliament for Faversham over the weekend. She too has raised it with me. We have yet not received sufficient information for responsibility to be determined, and in any event, it is not the Department for Transport's job to determine responsibility. Local parties must work together to agree who is responsible for the bridge now and who will be responsible for it in the future should there be a change in ownership. I am taking an interest in the Faversham swing bridge. However, there does not appear at the moment to be a commercial reason to re-open it and dredge the waterway. That may change in the future, but a vessel has not gone through that area for some decades.
My Lords, I recognise that maintenance is down to the owner of any asset to decide, but do Governments nevertheless set mandatory maintenance schedules in their activities; for example, when internal components of swing bridges have not been replaced for 100 years?
We do not go to the level of setting mandatory maintenance schedules, but we work with various organisations within the world of highways maintenance. For example, through various channels, we have produced Well-Managed Highway Infrastructure: A Code of Practice, which we developed with the UK Roads Leadership Group. Assets such as swing bridges are very rare and each is usually unique, so setting out more detailed maintenance requirements may be counterproductive.