The first recycled plastic bridge to be used on North Yorkshire’s vast public rights of way network has been installed to provide a long-lasting alternative to traditional crossings.
The decision to introduce a more environmentally-friendly replacement for Swinney Beck Bridge, near Masham, is part of a growing trend nationally to introduce the plastic crossings.
Despite the departure from the use of traditional materials, executive member for highways and transportation, Cllr Keane Duncan, stressed that the new bridge fits in well with its surroundings.
He said: “Long-term maintenance costs are a huge consideration when installing new bridges on our public rights of way network. This is why we have taken the opportunity to introduce a recycled plastic alternative which is becoming popular in other parts of the country.
“It’s very exciting to see that plastic waste can be used in construction. The appearance of Swinney Beck Bridge is in-keeping with the area and the previous structure - the only difference is the increased lifespan and environmental credentials.”
The poor condition of Swinney Beck Bridge, between the villages of Ellingstring and Healey, was first raised by Ellingstring resident Richard King following storms in 2020.
He said: “Villagers and our many holidaying visitors love to walk on the local footpaths as a perfect escape from the stresses of normal life, enjoying the wildlife and the fabulous views we get being high up on the side of Wensleydale.
“In November 2020 I was crossing the old Swinney Beck Bridge on one of my daily outings and I saw that the bridge had collapsed and was partially submerged, and therefore dangerous to use.
“I reported it to the county council and they have replaced it with a handsome, practical and safe new crossing, which should last for many years, and has the added benefit of being made from recycled materials.
“This will allow walkers to enjoy many more years of access to a quiet and tranquil corner of our beautiful landscape.”
Our public rights of way team took the decision to trial a new structure made from recycled plastic when they were faced with replacing Swinney Beck Bridge.
The material will last longer than a traditional timber frame, and does not corrode or rust, or require painting or maintenance.
Cllr Margaret Atkinson, who represents the Masham and Fountains division on North Yorkshire County Council, said: “This route is well-used by local residents and walking groups who raised its poor condition and have welcomed the replacement.
“The recycled plastic bridge is a pioneering addition to North Yorkshire’s public rights of way network. I hope it proves a success and more are considered elsewhere in the county.”
There are 10,000 kilometres (6,200 miles) of public rights of way in North Yorkshire, which is England’s largest county.