This project creates a new footbridge across the River Yare and enhances existing rights of way and footpaths. It is part of a wider project of improvements to green space in Bowthorpe, associated with the development of Three Score.
Although the route previously had an existing right of way, since the bridge was removed there was no longer a way to cross the River Yare. This meant the historic link between Bowthorpe and Colney was missing, and the route could not be used.
Although reinstating the bridge may appear a relatively small project, it brings a large strategic benefit on a much broader scale and was far from simple to deliver. The land the bridge is built upon was unregistered and required a compulsory purchase alongside dealing with the concerns and requirements of the residents in the immediate vicinity of the new bridge. The GNGB’s support enabled the re-establishment of the link, creating a direct connection for residents of Bowthorpe to walk to work at the Norwich Research Park and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. The installation of the bridge also provides improved access to Bowthorpe Southern Park and the existing riverside path along the River Yare. The Yare Valley is a key green infrastructure corridor, providing both public access to the river and countryside along the Yare Valley Walk, and important wildlife habitats. A signage project delivered alongside the bridge has signposted users to the restored route. Enhancing and promoting access to the Yare Valley Walk has long been a strategic priority for the GNGB.
The arched design of the bridge allows for the continued use of the river as a foraging route for bats and the parapets are set at a height suitable for use by horses and riders as the bridge itself is on a classified bridleway - although access is not permitted for riders onto the Bowthorpe Southern Park. During the construction phase for the bridge further works were undertaken on the Southern Park to improve paths, reduce flooding and create a fish fry (a shallow area to nurture young fish). Planting works around the bridge further enhanced the biodiversity of the site and the kingfishers and other birds that frequent the area have returned and are thriving.
This is a prime example of the benefits of the GNGB’s partnership working practices. As the site for the bridge spanned two districts, there could have been a need for complicated administrative processes involving two planning committees and planning districts, as well as identifying who should pay for what. The bridge was a challenging project to deliver, and project managed and delivered by Norwich City with the planning determined by South Norfolk and with support from NPLaw and Norfolk County Council. By working in partnership, the GNGB was able to streamline this process and promote joint ownership of the project.