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Evesham’s town centre will be strangled, bus services will suffer and the emergency services will face real challenges in performing their vital tasks unless the Abbey Bridge and Viaduct are replaced at the earliest possible date. That was the message the town’s MP, Peter Luff, took to a meeting with Transport Minister Norman Baker at a meeting in the House of Commons this week.

The MP was making the case for cash to build the new bridge from the Department of Transport’s major schemes funding pot, decisions on which will be taken in the next few weeks.

He explained to Mr Baker the geography of the town centre, surrounded on three sides by the curve of the River Avon, and the real risk that continuing weight restrictions and then the full closure of the bridge could have a devastating impact on Evesham.

Commenting, Peter Luff said,

“Norman Baker showed a lively interest in the project and was particularly struck by the impact on bus passengers were the bridge to be closed for a long period. He made no promises, but indicated that the total costs of the other schemes around the country with which we were effectively in competition for funding, had come down significantly, meaning a higher proportion will be able to go ahead.

“I emphasised the very quick start that Worcestershire County Council could make on the scheme, having already invited tenders for the work – this impressed the minister as he is also anxious to make rapid progress on schemes to boost the economy.”

Peter Luff added,

“I know that some local traders are understandably concerned that the closure period is likely to be very serious for their businesses, but the unavoidable truth is that we face a simple choice. We can have a planned closure with proper traffic management schemes planned and put in place in good time, with a brand new bridge and viaduct at the end of to that will last for many decades, or we can have an unplanned closure at some unknown time in the next few years with no warning and no new bridge and viaduct at the end of it.

“If there were a genuinely practical and affordable middle way with some kind of temporary bridge to maintain traffic flows during construction of the new one, I would be urging it – but there just isn’t. All of us who care about Evesham must rally behind the campaign to secure a new bridge and viaduct – it’s the kind of opportunity we will not get again in a hurry.”

Finally, at the meeting Peter highlighted a strong link between Evesham and Mr Baker’s Lewes constituency – they were both scenes of famous battles involving the father of English parliamentary democracy Simon de Montfort. While he triumphed at Lewes in 1264, where he is remembered as a hero, he was, of course, defeated at Evesham in 1265.

“Norman was particularly interested in the geography of Evesham which contributed in no small part to de Montfort’s defeat," Peter added. “This can only help as he will remember with clarity why we need the scheme so much!”

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